Model Alliance, Advocates, & Lawmakers Celebrate Nation Leading Law to Protect Models' Rights

Models Nidhi Sunil, Alyssa Sutherland and others urge Gov Hochul to sign the Fashion Workers Act into law ASAP

NEW YORK, NY (06/13/2024) (readMedia)-- Today, the Model Alliance, including founder and Executive Director Sara Ziff, joined with models, including Nidhi Sunil and Alyssa Sutherland to celebrate the historic passage of the Fashion Workers Act: pro-labor legislation that will regulate predatory management agencies in New York that currently operate without oversight in the $2.5 trillion fashion industry. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and now awaits Governor Hochul's signature. This first in the nation legislation would guarantee models basic labor protections, setting a new standard for how models, management agencies, and brands work together.


"The Fashion Workers Act validates the basic premise that models are workers, deserving of the same rights and protections as anyone else who works for a living, not fewer. This is a major leap forward for the fashion industry which since its inception, has been an absolute backwater for workers' rights, camouflaged by glamor and rife with a range of abuses considered the price of admission. New York – one of the fashion capitals of the world – has said unequivocally that the status quo is unacceptable. It is a major victory for our workforce of overwhelmingly young women and girls, and we are deeply grateful to our bill sponsors Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Reyes for their unwavering support. We urge Governor Hochul to sign the Fashion Workers Act into law immediately," said Sara Ziff, Executive Director of the Model Alliance.

"After 3 long years of advocacy and struggle, I am thankful that the NYS Legislature passed the Fashion Workers Act with broad, bipartisan support in both houses" said Assembly Member Karines Reyes, R.N., Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety. "This legislation ensures that models, creatives and workers in the fashion industry have basic legal protections. These new standards will reduce the financial abuse, harassment, and the dilution of their craft due to artificial intelligence, that has taken place in the fashion industry for years, due to imbalances of power and resources. This bill would instill fairness and justice in New York State Labor Law, if signed into law, and I am pleased to call on Governor Hochul to use her power to enact these basic rights for fashion workers."

Senator Hoylman-Sigal said: "I am very proud that the Fashion Workers Act has now passed in both legislative houses and I am extremely grateful to Assemblymember Reyes for her work getting it through the Assembly. Our bill will close the legal loopholes that allow modeling agencies to maintain near-complete control over a model's finances, job opportunities, and use of their personal image. Our bill will also put a cap on the outrageously high fees these agencies charge, prohibit jobs that pose unreasonable risks to models, protect models from having their digital image replicas used without their consent, and empower the Attorney General and Department of Labor to go after management companies that violate these rules. New York has long prided itself on being the fashion capital of the United States. When the Governor signs this bill into law, models working in our state will finally receive the labor protections that they are entitled to, making New York the fashion worker protection capital, as well."

"The passing of the Fashion Workers Act is an historical achievement for models in NY. Its implementation will help shift the scales on the gross power imbalance that has existed between models and predatory management companies. This is a labor win like any other and I'm beyond proud of the work done by the Model Alliance to protect this very vulnerable workforce," said Alyssa Sutherland, actor and former model.

"So proud and grateful to be a part of the fashion workers act, a full circle moment for me and a first step in the right direction towards a safer and more equitable work environment for models, especially immigrant models like me. Governor Hochul must sign it into law immediately," said Nidhi Sunil, model and Board Member of Model Alliance.

"Beyond the glamorous facade, my journey through the modeling industry has hardened me- from financial exploitation to sexual assault. Perhaps we are placed on this earth to endure hardships that inspire us to build better lives. The Fashion Workers Act is a major win as we now have enforceable standards for fair and safe working conditions across professions," said Kai Branden, model and actor.

"I want my work in this industry to be intentional and purposeful. The Fashion Workers Act - a bill that I am proud to have contributed non-discrimination provisions to, would provide so many more protections from others abuses rampant in the industry if left unchecked; like financial abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological / emotional abuse. We, as models, deserve the same dignity, safety, and comfort while working, as all other professions do - unionized or not. Models deserve the same rights and basic protections that other workers in this country receive freely, so it is wildly unfair and purely unjust to allow us to have any less than what the Fashion Workers' Act will grant when passed into law. We are not asking for much; we are asking for the bare minimum. This is about workers rights, civil rights, and human rights," said Mamé Adjei, model and actor.

"I was sexually assaulted by a fashion photographer over 15 years ago. The passage of the Fashion Workers Act allows me to continue healing from this trauma, even in the absence of accountability from my perpetrator. Passing the Fashion Workers Act has ensured protections for working models that have never before existed. Today I look back at my 19-year-old self, broken and afraid, and get to tell her that one day she will fight for things to be better. And she will win," said Ashley Grace, former model turned social worker and college professor.

The Fashion Workers Act is a signature achievement of the Model Alliance which has built a strong coalition of support over the past three years including supermodels Beverly Johnson, Karen Elson and Helena Christensen, as well as labor organizations such as SAG-AFTRA, WGAE, Conde Nast Union, Healthy Nail Salon Coalition, Legal Aid, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), Workers United, and the Freelancers Union.

Founded in 2012, the Model Alliance has been at the forefront of advancing labor rights in the fashion industry for the last decade. Through strategic research, policy initiatives, and campaigns, the Model Alliance aims to promote fair treatment, equal opportunity, and more sustainable practices in the fashion industry, from the runway to the factory floor. The Model Alliance has championed multiple pieces of legislation, including the Child Model Act and the Adult Survivors Act in New York and the Talent Protections Act in California. The organization also runs the world's only industry-specific support line, MA Support. In 2021, the organization received the first Positive Social Influence Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America at the CFDA Awards.

Background on the Fashion Workers Act:

Modeling 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, management companies are granted blanket "power of attorney" as part of their agreement to represent models, giving management companies 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, while having no obligation to act in their talents' best interests.

This leaves models unprotected outside the terms of their individual contracts – which tend to be exploitative and one-sided in favor of the management company – and creates a lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to basic issues like health and safety and having insight into one's own finances. For example, models often don't know whether and how much they'll be paid for jobs booked through management companies, which deduct various unexplained fees from their earnings, in addition to a 20 percent commission from the model and a 20 percent service fee from the client. Models are held to multi-year, auto-renewing contracts without any guarantee of actually being booked paid work, which ensnares them in cycles of debt and makes models highly vulnerable to other forms of abuse, including sexual abuse and human trafficking. When models experience abuse, they do not have a safe channel to file work-related grievances without a risk of retaliation.

The Fashion Workers Act will address these issues by closing the legal loophole by which management companies escape accountability and create basic protections for the models who are the faces of New York's fashion industry. It would impose civil penalties on management companies that violate their responsibilities under the bill and empower the Attorney General to hold management companies accountable for repeated violations.

The Fashion Workers Act would require management agencies to:

  • Conduct due diligence to ensure castings and jobs don't pose unreasonable risk of danger to the model, allow a model to be accompanied by a chaperone, and establish a zero tolerance policy for abuse
  • Allow models to file a complaint with the labor commissioner, and decline to participate in a casting or booking due to good faith concerns, without retaliation
  • Establish a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their talent
  • Provide models with copies of contracts and agreements, and deal memos memorializing such agreements, at least 24 hours in advance of a job
  • Make handing over power of attorney optional and revocable at any time
  • Charge a 20% commission maximum on earnings and notify formerly represented models if they collect royalties on their behalf
  • Share in writing the rate charged to the model for accommodation in advance of the model's stay
  • Register and deposit a surety bond of $50,000 with the NYS Department of State
  • Obtain clear written consent for the creation or use of a model's digital replica, detailing the scope, purpose, rate of pay, and duration of such use

And discontinue bad practices such as:

  • Presenting power of attorney as a necessary condition for entering into a contract with the management company
  • Collecting signing fees or deposits from models
  • Deducting fees or expenses from the model's earnings other than the agreed upon commission (i.e. website fees, accommodation fees, delivery fees, interest on payment of the model's earnings)
  • Renewing the contract without the model's affirmative consent
  • Imposing a commission fee greater than twenty percent of the model's compensation
  • Taking retaliatory action against a model for filing a complaint
  • Engaging in discrimination or harassment of any kind against a model on the basis of race, ethnicity, and other legally permissible categories under Section 296(a) of the Executive Law
  • Creating, altering, or manipulating a model's digital replica using artificial intelligence without clear written consent from the model.

The Fashion Workers Act would require clients to:

  • Provide overtime pay for work that exceeds eight consecutive hours
  • Provide a meal break for work that exceeds eight consecutive hours
  • Allow the model to be accompanied by a chaperone
  • Provide liability insurance to cover the health and safety of models
  • Protect the health and safety of models, including by establishing a zero-tolerance policy for abuse
  • Obtain clear written consent for the creation or use of a model's digital replica, detailing the scope, purpose, rate of pay, and duration of such use.