New York is one step closer to passing the Fashion Workers Act, which aims to protect models and others

After three years of lobbying by models and politicians, the Fashion Workers Act has been passed by the New York Assembly and Senate and is on Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk.

Imaan Hammam on the runway at Michael Kors.Imaan Hammam on the runway at Michael Kors.

Imaan Hammam on the runway at Michael Kors.

The unprecedented legislation aims to regulate management agencies and provide oversight in the sector. The goal is to ensure that workers receive contracts and payments within 45 days and that they are protected from harassment, discrimination and unsafe working conditions. Pending Hochul’s approval, the legislation would ensure agencies have a fiduciary responsibility to models, industry hairstylists, content creators, think up artists and other creatives. It is also intended to prohibit unreasonably high commissions and fees. Advocates have said it would deter predatory behavior from New York management agencies that operate unsupervised in the $2.5 trillion fashion industry.

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Last month, one of the bill’s most fervent supporters, the Model Alliance, organized a rally on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art the day before the Met Gala to draw attention to it.

The fashion industry is an economic engine in New York State, with the biannual New York Fashion Week generating approximately $600 million in revenue annually. Approximately 180,000 people work in the fashion industry in New York, which equates to nearly $11 billion in total wages.

The scene at the 2023 meeting for the Fashion Workers Act.The scene at the 2023 meeting for the Fashion Workers Act.

The scene at the 2023 meeting for the Fashion Workers Act.

There’s another industry-focused bill awaiting approval from lawmakers in Albany on Friday afternoon, called The Fashion Act, which would amend the General Business Act and require fashion retailers to be accountable to environmental and social standards. It would also amend the State Finance Act to establish a fashion recovery fund. Both bills were introduced by New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal. The pro-labor Fashion Workers Act has also received support from Assembly Member Karines Reyes, RN, who chairs the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety.

In addition, the New York Senate on Friday passed the Retail Worker Safety Act, which requires retail employers to adopt a violence prevention plan and train employees in de-escalation regarding active shooters. It would also require large employers to install panic buttons throughout the workplace.

While the Fashion Act would help promote sustainable efforts, the Fashion Workers Act would lead to basic protections for models – including teens and immigrants – by establishing a zero-tolerance policy for abuse within the industry.

There were 3,090 models in the U.S. earning an hourly wage between $15.23 and $67.46 in May 2023, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, established models earn significantly more for runway appearances and major designer ad campaigns. New York and California are the states with the highest number of models nationally, followed by Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff urged Governor Hochul to immediately sign the legislation into law, saying in a statement Friday: “This is a giant leap forward for the fashion industry, which has has been an absolute setback for workers’ rights. , camouflaged by glamor and riddled with a series of abuses that are considered the price of admission.”

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and even more recently, Ziff and some high-profile models such as Carrie Otis have spoken publicly, and in some cases taken legal action, about the alleged sexual abuse they faced in their earlier modeling days. The proposed legislation has also received the support of model Coco Rocha.

Otis, a board member of Model Alliance, is “overjoyed” by the passage of the bill and calls on Hochul to take swift action to protect the next generation. “I know firsthand how models – often very young girls – are coerced into financial and sexual exploitation. This shouldn’t be normal. And now that won’t be the case.”

Former model and activist Bethann Hardison said Friday that the question is what the legislation will mean for the agencies that represent fashion models. There will be a need for adjustment and implementation according to the law, she said.

Hardison, who still represents Tyson Beckford, owned an agency from 1984 to 1997 and said her agency was run like a tight ship during the time of “the wild, wild west” in the modeling industry. “I couldn’t afford to mess around as a woman of color, and a caring human being wouldn’t allow that, nor was it ever my desire to run a modeling agency. “I was the right person at the right time and did the right thing,” she said.

“The modeling industry has turned a corner, many have left and the dust has settled. What’s left behind will abide by the law, whether you like it or not. It didn’t have to come to this, but it is what it is and hopefully everyone will benefit from it, from the fashion models to the modeling agencies. I am still proud to be an alumni, but the thought of being regulated is hard to swallow,” she added.

Beverly Johnson at the Herve Leger Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collectionBeverly Johnson at the Herve Leger Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection

Beverly Johnson at Hervé Léger’s Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection.

Another well-known model, Beverly Johnson, who became the first black model to make an American Vogue cover fifty years ago, supported her and emphasized the need for more diversity. She said: “After decades in the fashion industry, the challenges of underrepresentation and inequality for Black models persist, and it remains extremely difficult for Black survivors to speak out about abuse and be believed.”

With the legislation moving a step closer to becoming law, representatives from a number of modeling agencies were relatively quiet about the prospect on Friday afternoon. Officials at IMG Models and the Lions Talent Management Company did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Karine Roman, vice president at New York Models and LA Models, declined to comment.

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