Model Alliance presents New York’s Fashion Workers Act

Model Alliance, a labor rights organization, has joined New York State Senator Brad Hoylman in introducing a new bill to regulate New York’s creative and modeling industries.

The Fashion Workers Act was revealed at a press conference. It will address “predatory management agents that operate without oversight”, and addresses those working behind the scenes who often lack basic labor protections.

This bill was announced 111 years ago, after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. It is often cited as one of the most devastating industrial disasters in New York history. Model Alliance hopes that the new bill will prevent future disasters by providing a regulatory framework for management agencies.

Sara Ziff, the founder of the organization and its executive director, stated in her speech that “a century after the Triangle factory fire it’s unacceptable” that the creative workforce responsible for the global fashion industry’s 2.5 trillion dollar turnover still lack basic protections in America, the birthplace American labour movement. New York is a huge beneficiary of the young girls and women who are indentured to predatory management companies. We believe the Fashion Workers Act is an urgent and necessary step. We hope Albany legislators will act now.

According to the Model Alliance they need to change management agencies as they currently fall under the “incidental Booking exception” under New York State General Business Law. This allows them to avoid licensing and regulation. They can also accept payments on behalf models, deposit checks, book jobs, and negotiate the model’s salary. They also claimed that agencies provided models with poor living conditions, which often result in them being charged unreasonable rental fees.

“It is absolutely essential for legislators to pass this legislation …”

These practices are being eliminated by the Fashion Workers Act. It also requires agencies to pay models and creatives within 45 day of completion of a job, perform health and safety checks on sets, and give models copies of contracts. The bill will also prohibit management companies from taking any action against models who file a complaint via the bill.

A number of models from the past and present, along with agency leaders and creators, spoke at the conference about the new legislation. They also gave their personal stories and explained why they support it.

Karen Elson, model and singer, was one of those who spoke on the topic. She stated that the “biggest challenge” she faced in her 25-year career was obtaining financial transparency.

Elson said that models often go to work not knowing what they are earning and then must wait up until a year before they get paid. This is unethical and should be banned. This legislation would provide much-needed checks and balances not only for models, but also for all creatives working in the fashion industry.”

Nidhi Sunil, L’Oreal’s global ambassador, echoed Elson’s sentiments and called the absence of protection and recognition “astonishing”. Sunil said, “It is absolutely essential for legislators to pass this legislation. Make a clear statement that the largest and most profitable industry in the world has a responsibility to its workers like every other.”

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