Thursday, July 28, 2011

It’s deja vu all over again

It’s deja vu all over again. An editorial about unnecessary professional licensing in the Wall Street Journal (July 28, 2011) brought back memories of all the battles fought over the years for the right to practice reflexology without massage licensing.

The general theme of the editorial is state regulation as a stumbling block to job creation. Cited as a prime example is hair braiding, an African “cultural art form.” The editorial notes the growth of hair braiding businesses in Mississippi which does not require cosmetology licensing as opposed to Florida where such licensing is required.

The authors of the editorial Chris Mellor and Dick Carpenter are president / general counsel and director of strategic research respectively of the Institute for Justice. The Institute won a battle for California hair braiders in 1999. “… the Institute for Justice in 1999 struck down California’s expansive, expensive and arbitrary cosmetology laws that had prevented hundreds of African-Americans (mostly women) from practicing a cultural art form: African hair braiding.… “California had required that African hairstylists spend nine months (1,600 hours) and at least $5,000 at a government-approved cosmetology school before sitting for the state licensing examination, which allowed braiders to legally practice their craft. But none of these government-mandated classes actually taught students how to braid hair. In fact, they taught techniques that were especially damaging to African hair.” (

“…none of these government-mandated classes actually taught students how to braid hair” Sound familiar? The same can be said for massage law requirements for reflexologists in New York, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Nebraska, Alabama and Arkansas where state laws include government-mandated massage training but no reflexology education of reflexology practitioners.  The one exception is Arkansas where 10 (?) hours of reflexology training is required during massage training. (Note: The states of Texas and New Hampshire are under contention currently.) Over the years, reflexologists have broken free from existing or pending massage licensing requirements in Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Arizona, and Washington state as well as the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs.

Particularly noteworthy are requirements in the states of New York and Florida where large populations receive reflexology services provided by individuals with state-mandated massage licensing with no reflexology training required. In both states an outcry has been raised but in Florida, battles have raged for decades with the massage school owner dominated massage board as well as before the state legislature. LINK Both the reflexologist as a small business person and the idea have suffered as a result.

We fondly remember Bob whose reflexology clientele in the late 1970’s consisted of other residents of his Florida retirement village where he had a regular circuit of house calls. Would today’s residents receive such services? Perhaps by someone flying under the state’s massage law but otherwise the answer is most assuredly, no—the cost of the home call by a massage-licensed individual would undoubtedly be beyond the budgets of Florida retirement village seniors. 

In New York City some years ago, Rockport wanted to hire reflexologists to promote its shoe line in shoe stores when it ran into a problem—they couldn’t find state-mandated massage practitioners who provided reflexology when “reflexology” services were requested—applicants for the job all practiced foot massage under the label of reflexology. Rockport dropped the idea.

The idea suffers as well. In the late 1990’s Barbara and Kevin Kunz were in discussion to conduct research with Dr. Oz at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. The Kunzes cautioned the Oz team about the licensing requirement and the research idea was dropped.

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