Model Alliance, Amazon Labor Union’s Chris Smalls Rally for Models – WWD

Model Alliance, Amazon Labor Union’s Chris Smalls Rally for Models – WWD

Model Alliance, Amazon Labor Union’s Chris Smalls Rally for Models – WWD

Amazon union president Chris Smalls joined Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff and other supporters on Tuesday to demonstrate for the New York State Fashion Workers Act.

Ziff’s appearance came days after she filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court alleging that former Miramax boss in Italy, Fabrizio Lombardo, raped her when she was 19. In the complaint, Lombardo is accused of assaulting Ziff in a New York City hotel room in 2011. At the time, Ziff was working as a model and aspiring actress, saying Lombardo invited her to join him and the Harvey brothers and Bob Weinstein for a drink but the Weinsteins weren’t there when she arrived.

In addition to Lombardo, Ziff is suing Harvey Weinstein, Disney and its subsidiaries Buena Vista and Miramax for abuse and negligence under the Adult Survivors Act.

Weinstein is serving a combined 39-year prison sentence for various sex crimes. Efforts to reach Lombardo for comment last week were unsuccessful.

Standing with Smalls, a few other models and content creators in New York City’s Meatpacking District, Ziff noted that over the past decade, the Model Alliance has worked to convince the fashion industry, lawmakers and the general public that ” fashion is work,” she said. “While fashion appears to be glamorous, this industry is built on the backs of young people, mostly young women and girls, who are essentially contract workers, working indebted to their management agencies.”

In her remarks on Tuesday, she referred to the lawsuit and explained that it was a catalyst for launching the alliance, which prioritizes advocacy for models’ rights. “I’ve heard hundreds of stories like mine through our helpline over the last decade. While the Adult Survivors Act is about righting the wrongs of the past, we still need to make sure that what happened to me and so many other women in this area doesn’t happen again. That’s why we need lawmakers to pass the Fashion Workers Act, which would finally protect and create workplace protections for models and creative artists.”

The legislation is intended to regulate management agencies and provide oversight in the $2.5 trillion fashion industry. Providing contracts to workers, guaranteeing payment within 45 days and protecting them from harassment, discrimination and unsafe working conditions are goals. Ziff said he hopes lawmakers pass the bill during this session. If passed, the legislation would ensure agencies have a fiduciary responsibility to models, industry hairdressers, content creators, makeup artists and other creatives. It is also designed to prohibit unreasonably high fees and expenses.

Many models will never see a contract for the designer shows they attend and “won’t know if or how much they are being paid. They’ll be lucky if they break even,” according to Ziff. “This lack of financial transparency is also part of why our industry is so ripe for sexual abuse. It’s no coincidence that some of the biggest predators of the #MeToo movement used modeling agencies to prey on victims. Knowing they will face retaliation for coming forward, victims must choose between talking or being able to eat.”

Ziff noted that she dropped her own case, thanks to the “window of scrutiny that was created through the Adult Survivors Act, which our community helped pass. What happened to me at 19 was a catalyst. I started the Model Alliance to make the fashion industry a safer place for what is largely a young, female immigrant workforce.I knew firsthand how exploitative this industry can be.

The bill is in the New York State Senate Labor Committee. Fashion is a major driver of the state’s economy, with New York Fashion Week generating nearly $600 million in revenue annually.

After supporting the Model Alliance at another press rally in May, Smalls said: “We want to make sure union and union leaders decide to side with the fashion industry through the Model Alliance. Our duty as the working class is to show solidarity no matter what sector they are in. Today I take a stand again just as I did a year ago. I will not continue to be complacent or stand aside. I’ll be on the line whenever my phone is called.”

Smalls mentioned the long history of independent contractors and how [some] women in the fashion industry have been exploited, “since the beginning of time”.

With his colleagues and a GoFundMe page, Smalls spearheaded the creation of the first Amazon union and sparked an increase in work organization. But over the past year, the ALU has gone through cracks and Smalls’ high-profile image has left some workers forgotten. Amazon has legally challenged the union’s election results.

Models and content creators including Rozi Levine and Camryn Herold have previously shared personal experiences of alleged abuse in the fashion industry.

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