New York State Senator Brad Hoylman Sara Ziff Teddy Quinlivan and Karen Elson gather to announce new prolabor...
Photo: Courtesy of the Model Alliance

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, Sara Ziff, Teddy Quinlivan, and Karen Elson gather to announce new pro-labor legislation, the Fashion Workers Act.

Senator Hoylman backed Elson up: “If a supermodel like Karen Elson can’t get paid on time, how do we expect the thousands of models who aren’t well known and creatives that work behind the scenes to get their check and have the protections that every worker in New York State deserves?” he asked. According to his figures, the fashion industry constitutes 5.5% of the New York state’s workforce, and brings in $11 billion in wages and nearly $2 billion in tax revenues each year.

The Fashion Workers Act follows on the heels of landmark legislation that made California the first state to require hourly wages for garment workers. Today is the 111th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Hoylman made a connection between the labor movement spawned by that tragedy in which 146 garment workers, mostly young women, died, and the goals of the Fashion Workers Act in 2022. “First, agencies are going to have a fiduciary responsibility to models and creatives. Second, we’re going to make sure they get paid on time and in full. Third, we’re going to prohibit unreasonably high commissions and outrageous fees, and fourth, we’re going to create new protection against retailiations for all of these workers.”

“Exposure is a fancy word for cultural cachet,” Quinlivan said at the conclusion of the press conference. “But exposure doesn’t pay the rent, exposure doesn’t put food on the table, and exposure won’t be for you when you’re sick and uninsured in the hospital. This whole speech comes down to one thing: money and its role in changing lives and bringing equity.” She quoted the author Idowu Koyenikan, “Money is the symbol of the value you create,” then went on, “I want everyone to think of the models, makeup artists, hair stylists, and other creatives bring to the fashion industry and what that’s worth.”

It’s worth noting that the Model Alliance has experience promoting pro-labor legislation; it was behind New York’s Child Model Act of 2013, which ensures underage models are given the same protections as other child performers working in the state.

Image may contain Human Person Crowd Karen Elson Clothing Apparel Suit Coat and Overcoat

Photo: Courtesy of The Model Alliance

“It is demoralizing and humiliating to have to beg to be paid,” said Karen Elson.