The Model Alliance is calling on legislators to ensure fashion workers get paid. During a press conference last week, the model rights organization’s founder Sara Ziff spearheaded a new bill that aims to provide labor protection for workers including models, hair stylists, makeup artists, influencers and others in New York’s fashion industry. In attendance were models Karen Elson and Teddy Quinlivan, who each shared their own experiences with management companies that exploited legal loopholes in issuing payments.
The Fashion Workers Act bill calls for financial transparency and accountability specifically in New York, where models and creatives work through management companies as opposed to talent agencies. As a result, the companies are able to evade licensing and regulation, which the activist group claims leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation and “creates a lack of financial transparency and accountability when it comes to issues of both payment and sexual abuse.”
It added that management companies are currently able to negotiate rates, book jobs, deduct expenses and accept payments on behalf of creatives, who often wait months or years to get paid for services. If or when funds are eventually received, creatives often find a number of undisclosed fees, including a standard 20 percent commission on both the model’s fee and the client’s payment. Models are held to exclusive, multi-year contracts—often with one-sided benefits that favor the management companies—without a timeline for payment, throwing them into “cycles of debt” and making them vulnerable to human trafficking and other forms of abuse.
The bill also highlighted the poor living conditions forced upon models through management agencies arranging for six to 10 women to live in one apartment and charging them over $2,000 a month apiece for what the alliance deems a space “worth far less.”
The bill would require management companies to act in the best interests of their talent, pay them within 45 days of completing a job and provide them with copies of their contracts. It also calls for management companies to conduct “reasonable inquiry” into creatives’ health and safety on set, and to discontinue unethical practices like charging hidden fees and renewing a contract without the creative’s consent.
The Model Alliance encourages the public to visit its homepage to sign the petition calling on legislators to approve the bill.
The Model Alliance has gained power in recent years, with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) honoring the organization with the first Positive Social Influence Award last fall. More recently, Ziff was honored with the French National Order of Merit at the Consulate General of France for her work in advancing model rights, which included holding modeling executive and Elite Europe president Gerald Marie accountable for the rape allegations against him. Marie has faced accusations from at least 24 women, including models Milla Jovovich, Carla Bruni, Paulina Porizkova and Carre Otis, who was 17 years old at the time of the alleged rape.
The Model Alliance was also the group behind New York’s Child Model Act of 2013, which equips underage models with the same protections as other child performers working in the state.