The state of New York passed legislation Wednesday recognizing underage models as child performers, including them in the same labor protections that are afforded to child dancers, actors and musicians. According to the Model Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to bringing fair labor practices to the world of modeling, “New York City is hailed as the fashion capital of the world, and with many models beginning their careers in their early teens, this legislation is vital to ensuring these young workers are protected under the law.”
The law, which was proposed by state Senate co-leader Jeff Klein and Senate Labor Committee Chairperson Diane Savino, adds “print and runway models” to the list of young performers who are covered under the state’s labor laws. Now, companies that employ underage models will be required to place a portion of the child’s payment into a trust and to provide tutors and chaperones for the models on set.
Earlier this month, Klein said in a statement, “While New York may set the trends when it comes to fashion, we are falling short when it comes to setting fair labor standards for young people who are trying to break into the industry. That’s why Senator Savino and I are taking action to push for legislation that would extend the educational and financial protections currently afforded to all other child performers.”
A special Democratic conference tasked with studying issues facing underage models issued a report saying that many young models have been mistreated and sexually abused.
Most models begin their career around the age of 13, sacrificing their education, health and financial security to model without the basic protections they deserve under New York’s current law,” wrote Savino in the report. “Today, we are bringing attention to the rampant exploitation and sexual abuse of child models and announcing legislation that will give child models these critical protections they have gone without for too long.”
Sara Ziff of the Model Alliance said that the state of affairs for young models has been completely unacceptable, even dangerous.
“Most fashion models begin their careers in their early teens, and the choices they make as kids may have long-lasting repercussions,” said Ziff in a statement. “During these critical years, models often experience pressures, including nudity, sexual demands, starvation dieting, working long hours for no pay, and foregoing education, that would not be tolerated in any other work environment.”
Coco Rocha, also of Model Alliance, said to CBS News, “Having once been a teenage model, living and working in New York, I know all too well the difficulties that face underage models. Little to no workplace standards at times made my profession a very dangerous one for a minor.”
On Wednesday, Rocha said to Buzzfeed, “I could not be happier. If the Model Alliance never achieves anything else, this was monumental.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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