So, this is kind of cosmic. The exact same day as the death of one of organized labor’s biggest enemies, British Vogue became the first major publication to voluntarily sign an agreement with the “models” branch of the entertainment trade union Equity, which first brought models under its umbrella four years ago. Coincidence?

The Equity Ten Point Code Of Conduct for the treatment of models during photo shoots, which is available for download at British Equity’s website, contains some extremely basic provisions for respecting models as workers and not just clothes hangers, provisions which seem so basic to most people that it’s crazy the fashion industry even needs them, but it does. These rules include:

-Models cannot be made to work for more than five hours in a row without a break that is of sufficient length for them to eat and rest. Models will not be asked to work days longer than ten hours. Food and beverages must be provided.

-When shooting on location, all travel expenses must be provided unless otherwise agreed upon.

-Informed consent must be given prior to any shoots requiring nudity. This means no more of those “surprise” nude shoots of which the industry is so fond. (Yes, this really happens. A lot.)

-There must be a place provided for models to change and go to the bathroom.

-Models must be paid promptly after all shoots.

-Models under the age of 16 will not be used to represent adults. No nudity or semi-nudity will be required of models under 16. Models under 16 will be subject to the same Equity regulations that protect all child performers.

Models working for British Vogue will no longer need to worry about any of these very basic concerns in the course of doing their jobs and trying to make people think they are nice to work with and not “difficult.” Hooray! It will be interesting to see if other publications follow suit, and if not, whether the fledgling model branch of the British Equity association flexes its thin but toned muscles with traditional labor tactics like strikes.

Meanwhile, models in America are still considered “independent contractors,” an outmoded classification which is used to legally withhold rights (like unionization) from a wide variety of workers. What models working in the US have instead, The Model Alliance, is a great resource and voice, but lacks the teeth of a traditional union. It will be interesting to see if US publications are willing to sign such agreements without the same kind of tacit threat in place.

(Via The Guardian)

Photo: British Vogue