Since announcing its launch back in 2010, the Model Alliance has moved swiftly to establish fair labor standards for the modeling industry, a place where glamour and fame often obscure poor working conditions.
The group's latest effort is The Freelancer Payment Protection Act, a law already passed in the New York State Assembly but still under review in the state Senate. The law, founder Sara Ziff explains on ModelAlliance.org, would protect models and other freelancers in New York by allowing them to file complaints against clients that won't pay up.
If the complaint is upheld after an investigation by the New York State Department of Labor, the client can be forced to pay everything owed to the model plus interest and lawyer's fees.
Getting paid fairly and on time is just one of the many labor issues Model Alliance is trying to bring to light. "The idea of models organizing may seem frivolous or, worse, downright funny - models are certainly not the people you picture when you think of child labor or bad working conditions," former model Jenna Sauers told Reuters. But since its February 2012 launch, the Alliance has already identified several areas in need of critical examination and improvement.
One hot topic is the payment of models in "trade" (clothing) instead of money. "Many top designers pay their models in clothes -- not cash. This doesn't have to be the case," Ziff told Reuters. One of those top designers being Marc Jacobs, who made headlines when one of his models blogged about getting paid with just a single outfit for dozens of hours worked for his Fall 2012 show.
Those wildly long hours are also a focus of the Model Alliance. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) included in its newly released guidelines that models under the age of 18 should not work past midnight. Yet Marc Jacobs kept his one of his 17-year-old model working till 4:30am. He, along with other designers, continue to flout the CFDA by hiring models under the age of 16, the suggested age limit.
Also included in the Model Alliance's agenda is addressing drug exposure, eating disorders and sexual harassment in the business. A new study included the following findings:
- Almost 80% of models say they've been exposed to drugs on the job, with 50% saying they've been exposed to cocaine.
- 28% of models say they've felt pressured to have sex with someone at work.
- 29% say they've experienced unwanted sexual harassment.
Now, in addition to age limits, fair payment, reasonable hours and protection against drugs and sexual harassment, the Model Alliance is taking on the deadbeat clients. Ziff is asking for 5,000 supporters to sign letters to New York Senator Dean Skelos to get the Freelancer Payment Protection Act passed by its June deadline.