The New York State Fashion Workers Act (or S8638) is one step closer to cinching up a loophole that keeps models, influencers, stylists, makeup artists and other creatives at bay without basic labor protections.
On Tuesday, the New York State Senate Labor Committee voted to pass the act, with the bill now heading to the Senate Finance Committee before it goes to a floor vote in the Senate. The bill has yet to move in the Assembly, but it is already stoking up conversations around pay equity.
The pro-labor bill was introduced by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assembly member Karines Reyes on March 25, the 111th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a tragedy that exposed the realities of working conditions in domestic apparel production. The Model Alliance, which was founded in 2012 by Sara Ziff, is the bill’s cosponsor. On the milestone, Ziff, the Model Alliance’s executive director, called the bill a “necessary and urgent step forward.”
“The Model Alliance is grateful to our bill sponsor Senator Hoylman and the Senate Labor Committee for moving the bill, and we urge Albany lawmakers to act now by passing this legislation through both chambers,” she said in a statement.
As part of the visual lifeblood of a $2.5 billion fashion industry, models, for one, are bound to management agencies that take a percentage of a model’s fee and can withhold earnings (anywhere from 20 percent and higher commission on a client’s payment and model’s fee) allegedly for room and board, other unexplained fees and the like. The practice has come under fire from leaders in the fashion industry and models themselves. Modeling and creative agencies fall out of the jurisdictions that regulate talent agencies due to New York State General Business Law’s “incidental booking exception.”
Thousands of prominent industry workers and supporters have stepped forward to support the Fashion Workers Act since its launch, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
At a press conference held at Lincoln Center in March, Hoylman said, “New York City is the best-dressed place in the country. It is part of what makes this industry special yet models and creatives often have the least leverage and the least power. And that’s just plain wrong.”
Manufacturers and garment workers have had their share of problems with late payments, too. The Fashion Workers Act, joins bills like the New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (S7428) or “Fashion Act,” as it winds through this year’s legislative season.
If the Fashion Workers Act passes, it would require management agencies to act in the best interests of their talent, meaning creatives must be paid within 45 days of completing a job; contracts and agreements, as well as basic workplace safety on set, are required, plus a surety bond of $50,000 with the New York State Department of State. The Fashion Workers Act would also discontinue what it says are a number of bad practices, including requiring signing fees or deposits from models, taking commission greater than 20 percent or initiating auto-renewal of contracts without consent. Harassment or retaliatory actions from management companies would also be prevented under the bill.