Hair stylists take over Olympia, fighting against booth renting bill

Hair stylists take over Olympia, fighting against booth renting bill (PHOTO: KOMO News)

Independent hair stylists and other cosmetologists fear state lawmakers are trying to ruin their industry. A huge crowd gathered Monday and heavy security in Olympia as the bill's sponsor tried to explain herself. State Sen. Karen Keiser says she's not threatening their livelihood but trying to be fair.

The senator said her intent was to make the relationship between salon owners and booth renters more equitable especially when it comes to who pays what in state taxes, but that sparked a huge protest.

"Kill the bill, kill the bill," was the chant. Several hundred stylists descended on the state Capitol wanting to kill a bill that they believe would kill their futures. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be forced out of being an owner-stylist," testified Jenny Treutle of Moses Lake.

When Senator Karen Keiser first wrote the bill the stylists said it would get rid of all independent stylists who rent their seats from the salon owners which is roughly half of the state's hair cutters.

"I left to work for myself," testified Courtney Gutzman fighting back tears. "I worked to put myself through school — 4.0 student with honors and no student debt because I was able to own my own salon."

When word got out the senator said reaction on social media was swift. "I have received threats and security has been notified."

She said it is not because of those threats, but because she learned more about the issue and backed off on much of the bill. "I do want to again assure you this is not aimed at putting you out of business in any way. Not in any way."

But there still is a lot of confusion. “What is going to happen to us?” asked Kevin Thompson. “How does this bill apply to us?" He owns the Le Roi Salon in University Place and worries he won't be able to also continue as a stylist if this bill goes through..

Keiser answered, “If you are licensed and fully up to your nominal whatever taxes you're paying and are fully in compliance then nothing at all."

But even after the explanation there is still concern about what may happen with these bills. “The bill is very hard to understand,” said Thompson after the hearing. “I think there were a lot of great messages today. But I think at the end of it there's still confusion."

Sen. Keiser said she is now working to further amend the bill to make it more acceptable with the next step being a vote in the committee.

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