Labour rights organisation Model Alliance has announced alongside New York State Senator Brad Hoylman a new bill that strives to regulate the modelling and creative industries in New York.
Revealed in a press conference, the Fashion Workers Act will tackle “predatory management agencies that currently operate without oversight”, addressing those behind the scenes that often lack basic labour protections in New York.
The announcement of the bill comes 111 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which is regularly considered one of the deadliest industrial disasters in New York’s history. Model Alliance hopes the new bill will help to avoid future disasters through a regulatory framework that management agencies must follow.
At the conference, Sara Ziff, the organisation’s founder and executive director, said in her speech: “A century after the Triangle factory fire, it’s unacceptable that the creative workforce behind the 2.5 trillion global fashion industry still lacks basic protections in the birthplace of the American labour movement. New York derives huge benefit off the backs of young women and girls indentured to predatory management agencies. The Fashion Workers Act is a necessary and urgent step, and we hope Albany lawmakers will take action now.”
According to the Model Alliance, change in management agencies is needed as, at present, they are currently under the “incidental booking exception” under New York State General Business Law, which allows them to escape licensing and regulation. Additionally, they have the right to accept payments on behalf of the model, deposit checks, book jobs and negotiate on the model’s pay. The organisation also accused agencies of providing models with unsatisfactory living environments, at which they are often charged unjust rental fees.
“It’s absolutely imperative for lawmakers to pass this legislation…”
The Fashion Workers Act aims to dismantle these practices, as well as further requiring agencies to pay models and creatives within 45 days of completing a job, carry out health and safety checks on sets and provide models with copies of contracts. It will also forbid management companies from taking action against a model filing a complaint through the bill and engage in discriminatory behaviour or harassment of any kind.
In both the conference and in a press release, a string of former and current models, as well as agency leaders and creators spoke on the new legislation, detailing personal experiences they have had in the industry and why they support the act being put into place.
Model and singer Karen Elson was among those speaking on the subject, stating that her “biggest challenge” through her 25 years in the industry was obtaining “financial transparency”.
Elson added: “Far too often models go to work without having a clear understanding of what they are earning, then sometimes must wait up to a year to be then paid a mere fraction of what they thought they were receiving. It’s unethical and should be illegal for such practices to continue. This legislation would create much needed checks and balances for not just models but all creatives in the fashion industry.”
L’Oréal’s global ambassador Nidhi Sunil seconded Elson’s sentiments, calling the lack of recognition and protection “astonishing”. Sunil continued: “It’s absolutely imperative for lawmakers to pass this legislation and make a clear statement that one of the biggest and most profitable industries in the world has an obligation to its workers like any other.”