New York State Senators Agree To Propose Legislation That Will Apply Child Labor Laws To Underage Models

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Encouraging news today from The Model Alliance! New York state senators Jeffrey Klein and Diane Sevino have agreed to introduce legislation that would drastically improve the working conditions for models under the age of 18.

Despite the fact that the majority of models enter the business between the ages of 13 and and 16, teen models are not protected by the child labor laws the Department of Labor currently enforces for other types of underage performers. Instead, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, whose laws are much weaker and rarely enforced. This leads to many underage models working longer hours than they are supposed to, often without pay, showing up to shoots unchaperoned, and dropping out of school, which I think most people can agree are problems that needs to be fixed.

“When I started modeling at 15,” writes MA board member Trish Goff in the Alliance’s newsletter, “there were no provisions for on-set tutors and so I dropped out of school.  Although I was one of the lucky ones who went on to a successful career as a model, as a child I should never have been forced to make that choice — between modeling and education.”

The letter continues:

Many models begin their careers as children, and are faced with pressures and choices they should not have to deal with on their own.  Often, these pressures include nudity, sexual demands, starvation dieting, working long hours for no pay, and foregoing education, and the choices made as children may have long-lasting repercussions. “The fact is that very few models ‘make it,’ and so many young women sacrifice education and wellbeing for misdirected hopes about what modeling might someday bring. I believe education should come first,” says Carre Otis.

It seems like a no-brainer that child and teen models should be afforded the same protections as other child performers, and I imagine anyone who takes a stance against this (“this” being “adequate child labor laws”) will have a tough PR case to make. (I’m looking at you, Marc Jacobs.) The Alliance is not even trying to overhaul child labor laws; they just want to apply the same protections to all child performers across the board. Marc Jacobs’ “creative freedom” is no match for logic and ethics, right?

You can go here to read the protections that legislators are trying to enact for underage models, and here to sign a petition directed at New York’s Governor, Attorney General, Department of Labor, and Department of Education. You can also go here to read high profile models’ reactions to the proposed regulations. I’m especially appalled by Shalom Harlow‘s story:

I started working as a model at the age of 15. I know first-hand the acute vulnerability of being a child working in an unregulated adult industry. It was not uncommon to be put in situations where I was asked to do things by adults in positions of authority to whom an answer “NO” would put my job at risk. For instance, during show seasons, there were many times I slept on a fitting room floor until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, waiting to fit a dress, with an 18 hour work day ahead of me. At the time, I had no recourse available to protect my basic needs for food and sleep. It seems obvious to me that children should be protected in any work environment they participate in, and child models are no exception.

That, right there, is some seriously Dickensian shit. 15-year-old girls should not have to sleep on the floor, people. Anyone who thinks they should is a monster, end of story.

(Via The Model Alliance)

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    • Eileen

      How is this even a thing? 17-year-old actors, even though in many states they’re old enough to drop out of school, still have on-set tutors. Models are generally treated like crap, it’s true, and a 14-year-old model is sold as a woman whereas a 14-year-old actor is sold as a child, but how is it legal to treat them differently?