A new bill aims to protect New York models and other fashion creatives from predatory management agencies that currently operate without oversight.
Called “The Fashion Workers Act,” Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff announced the pro-labor legislation at a press conference on Friday, which happened to be the 111th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Ziff was joined by New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman and models Karen Elson and Teddy Quinlivan at the event, which took place outside of Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
“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 labor movement,” said Ziff in a statement. “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.”
First introduced this week by Hoylman and New York State Assembly member Karines Reyes, the bill requires the registration and duties of model management companies and creative management companies as well as provides complaint procedures and penalties for violations.
Among some of the new requirements, the bill states that agencies are to pay models and creatives within 45 days of completing a job; provide models and creatives with copies of contracts and agreements; notify former models and creatives if the management collects royalties from a talent they no longer represent; register and deposit a surety bond of $50,000 with the NYS Department of State; and conduct reasonable inquiry into health and safety on set.
It further requires agencies to discontinue bad practices such as collecting signing fees or deposits from models; charging more than the daily fair market rate for accommodation; imposing a commission fee greater than 20% of the model or creative’s compensation; and forbids the management company from taking retaliatory action against any model or creative using the bill to file a complaint.
“Fashion is one of New York’s most important industries: it accounts for 5.5% of the workforce, $11 billion in wages, and nearly $2 billion in tax revenue each year,” said Hoylman. “And the cultural impact may even be greater than the financial impact. New York City is the best dressed place in the country. It’s part of what makes our city special. Yet the models often have the least leverage, the least power. That’s just plain wrong. I’m proud to carry the Fashion Workers Act with Assembly Member Reyes to finally ensure that fashion’s modeling and creative workforce has as much labor support as any other worker and to close the legal loophole by which management companies in the fashion industry escape accountability.”
Unlike talent agencies, modeling and creative agencies are considered to be management companies under New York State General Business Law §171(8), known as the “incidental booking exception,” allowing them to escape licensing and regulation.
In almost every case, agencies are granted “power of attorney” as part of their agreement to represent talent, giving agencies power to accept payments on behalf of the model, deposit checks and deduct expenses, as well as book jobs, negotiate the model’s rate of pay, and give third parties permission to use the model’s image.
“The lack of regulation in the fashion industry leads to the toxic cycle of debt and indentured servitude to agencies that many models and creatives face,” added Quinlivan, who shared some of her past experiences in the industry during the press conference. “The Fashion Workers Act seeks to address the predatory practices of some of these agencies. Clients of agencies deserve transparency and accountability, the Fashion Workers Act is a critical step forward in confronting the industry’s abuses of power face on.”