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Will a union help fashion models?

Some British fashion models, allegedly including a few big names, are attempting to join a trade union to improve their working conditions.  Many models are tired of having to conform to excessive thinness requirements, long working hours without breaks, often having little chance to eat between photo shoots, being made to sign unfair contracts, being exposed to hazards such as body paint and peroxide, and feeling unable to opt out of nude photo shoots because of fear of losing work.

Relevant passages from the report:

"Models have no voice; no one is listening to them and no one is asking them what they want," said Martin Brown, an Equity spokesman who has been involved in the negotiations with the models since the spring. He said: "We were approached earlier this year by a group of models who said they needed a union. They complained they had no one to represent them and that if something went wrong and they went to their agencies they were warned not to complain because they would not work again." Union membership would be the first attempt by those employed inside the fashion world to force the industry into adopting clearer and fairer working rights for thousands of models.

A fashion source said: "Some of those who want to set up the union are really quite big household names. But at the same time they are understandably a little uncomfortable about coming out in public just yet because of the prevailing view in the industry that models should keep quiet if they want to continue working."

Here is the reaction of Magali Amadei, an ex-fashion model and co-author of 5 resolutions to transform the fashion and beauty industries:

As I wrote about during New York Fashion Week, a union is exactly the kind of shake-up that needs to happen in the industry, and it's probably the only thing that will result in real rights and protections. Models (most of whom are very young and eager to please) face harsh working conditions and unhealthy pressures within a system where there is zero accountability. A union could change that--if enough models were willing to take the risk and join. We are working to organize a meeting in the U.S. If you're interested in getting involved, please get in touch [5resolutions [@]] . There is strength in numbers!

I feel sorry for these models.  They have worked with numerous fashion designers, been made to starve by them, and they haven’t figured out why they have to be so thin.  And now they think of unionizing.  How much would it help?  Consider the issue of Wal-Mart, easily with a million-plus employees (U.S.).  Wal-Mart does not allow its employees to unionize and pays the vast majority of them pathetically; it also outsources many American jobs and brings down wages in the U.S.  Why don’t the trade unions do anything about this?  Why don’t the trade unions do anything about Home Depot, which treats its employees in a similar manner?  Why did the United Auto Workers describe the sale of Chrysler to a New York Venture fund as good when what this group is going to do should be obvious: slash American jobs, outsource many others and give us an American car made in China?  And, the venture group has undoubtedly come up with a financial swindle to buy Chrysler in the first place.  So what is going on?  The union leaders have been put up there and are well paid by the very people who exploit the workers.  What are the odds that the fashion models would end up with genuine unions in New York and London?

Magali talks about the Screen Actors Guild successfully securing better rights for actors.  However, models are a different matter.  If most actors strike, they can’t just be replaced by desperate people from poor nations because there will be an accent problem; the foreigners couldn’t be made to acquire a native accent within a reasonable amount of time, if at all.  Models don’t have to act.  Fashion designers are already using a majority of fashion models from impoverished nations.  These poor models are unlikely to complain since they are glad to get any work, and there are plenty of them; the complainants, if any, can be safely dropped.

What will work?  Start with educating the public about the proper 5 resolutions and force the industry to prove that models below certain age-appropriate BMI thresholds are healthy and not starving.  Fashion models shouldn’t bother with a union unless they are willing to thoroughly investigate the people who will be administering it.

Here are the words of the Equity trade union group approached by the British models:

Equity said it was hoping to set up a committee of models to introduce basic minimum working standards.

"We want to work in partnership with the industry, not in confrontation," said Mr. Brown.

"We won't be able to insist on people signing up to these basic standards but we should make a pretty powerful lobby."

Yeah, right!  Basic/minimum working standards were proposed by the fashion industry under pressure after the malnutrition-related deaths of Ana Carolina Reston and Luisel Ramos (her sister Eliana Ramos also died later of malnutrition).  Apart from Italy and some unimportant nations where the government intervened, what happened?  Hardly anything.  In early November, 2007, another fashion models, Hila Elmalich, died of anorexia.



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Hey I'm a Model in the US and I'm tired of not getting my just due! Please link up with me and lets start a Union in the States!

Hello I'm a model in the US and I'm tired of not getting my just due! Pleas help me start a Union here and lets start a Modeling Revolution everywhere!!

Why I need help NOW...

No, Fox news Right Wing writers, not all models are Victoria Secret supermodels, or 13 year olds privileged to wear designer threads with parents to provide for them.
I'm 21 and I signed with a major agency this year in California. The contract requires I be available M-F 9am-5pm and basically whenever they require me to be available, with no guarantee of regular work or castings. I don't have a trust fund to live off of so I do have to work to pay the bills. Two months ago I got a request photo shoot for a big name client who would pay me $4,000 (minus 20% agency fee) but I had to take the day off of work. A few weeks later I was laid off/fired and replaced "for poor availability". Meanwhile I have yet to be paid for the supposed big shoot and the client legally has 90 days before my agency will contact their accounting department across the country to call the client to ask again for my pay. I will never know when I get this money.
How is this legal?????

My rent is over due, my utilities are being shut off and my bills have delinquency notices.

I have been trying to find another day job, applying everywhere with a good resume, but all I could get is a hostessing minimum wage part time job that will barely buy gas to get to work and a few microwave meals.

Other than the major pay issue, here are other modeling industry disgraceful conditions I have experienced:

- Starvation (no food or water provided, and no breaks to eat, and eating generally discouraged)
- Being forced to stand for long periods of time (worried about "wrinkling the dress" while I wear 5 inch heels and wait 3 hours back stage)
- No overtime (starting at 4am ending at 5pm)
- Hazardous conditions (toxic makeup, exploding lights, dangerous locations, all weather with little clothing: several times I was forced to shoot in the freezing cold with no blankets/jacket which resulted in catching the flu, putting me out of work for weeks)
- Agencies scamming models by refusing models the right to talk directly to the client about pay, so the agency can cycle the pay through departments to take more than 20% and skim unknown fees off the top.

Modeling is not as glamorous and easy as many assume. It's a pillar of the Marketing and Entertainment Industries and with out modeling, economies world wide would likely collapse. It is a real job, and it is a hard job believe it or not. Many of us are just trying to make a living and pay for school. There are millions of models, not just the ones making it big, and even they can tell you it's NOT just "standing and looking pretty"... We need to stop letting ourselves be taken advantage of, but we can't do it alone.

American Models need Union Support!

Actors are protected by unions, SAG and AFTRA. Why aren't models?!

*Actors'/model union in the UK,

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