Models start off notoriously young, and have often been at the forefront of issues surrounding underage employment. The latest plight concerns new models entering the industry under 16. Representative Grace Meng of New York introduced the Child Performers Protection Act of 2015 as a direct response to underage modelling, and this bill intends to extend federal workplace safety regulations to young professionals in general.
This brings the issue to a federal level, spurring a national conversation. Previously, the Fair Labor Standards Act stated an employment criteria for children, but performers and models are often exempted and regulation handled on a state-by-state basis. Both New York and California have passed legislation to protect these young professionals but policy is not uniform throughout the country. The new bill would bring forth defined working hours, salary and savings requirements (models would not be allowed compensation in the form of clothing, for example), and private help for sexual harassment. Read more over at The New York Times.
As to why it is important, Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance, one of the interest groups that has been working with Ms. Meng, emailed: “When most people think of models, they think of supermodels who command large sums, but most working models are not supermodels. Most begin their careers as children, and work in debt to their modeling agencies. The pervasive practice of pay in ‘trade’ contributes to models’ disempowerment in the workplace. Without adequate safeguards, child models often stand to be exploited by adults who do not have their best interests in mind. A unified national floor of standards would protect child performers wherever they engage in work across the country.”
At least, if the bill ever makes it to a vote. It is now with the Committee on Education and the Work Force. “We know, and expect, this is going to be a long conversation and process,” Ms. Meng said. “But at least this highlights the problem.”