Where Labor Rights and Sexual Harassment Meet

The idea that the lives of models are not all glamour that there is an ugly underside is not new. We’re familiar with the push to have models that are so thin as to invite anorexia. Countries like France and Israel have passed laws against this. In the US no such action has been taken. But as far as I understand the problem is more involved than that, it includes wage theft and sexual harassment. The sexual harassment is not confined to minor infractions but according to former models is constant and even calls for sleeping with agency directors and men the agency wants to impress. Part of the problem is that models are considered independent contractors, not regular employees. This means that they are not subject to wage and labor laws and even to sexual harassment rules and guidelines. Besides, many modeling jobs are not high paying and it is difficult to make any kind of complaint without losing your job. Think Bill Cosby who apparently admitted in a deposition that he even asked a modelling agent to connect him with women who were new and not doing well financially. What adds to the seriousness of the issues is that models are young, usually between 13 and 21, begin their career anywhere from 13 to 16 and are not equipped to stand up for themselves. Several former models have now become advocates. Sara Ziff, who is a graduate student at Harvard, recently wrote an op-ed for the L.A. Times and is the founding member of a group Model Alliance is one. There’s also Nikki DuBose who testified in Sacramento towards a bill to offer some of the needed protections. The bill has thus far made it through the California Assembly but not without opposition. Hopefully it will soon become law in California and set the state for similar laws in other states.
Most of us will not be models but we may be apt to encounter some attractive young person wishing to be a one and sharing this is a field where labor rights and sexual harassment meet might just sway him or her to think twice.