WHY IT’S NOT A UNION
Ziff, who focused on labor while majoring in politics at Columbia, has taken great pains to set up an organization that will protect models and serve as a clearinghouse for their concerns for the long run. That means that while the Model Alliance is focused on labor issues and models’ rights–they’re not a union. Why? Well for one, models are independent contractors and cannot legally organize. They have partnered with Actor’s Equity and the American Guild of Musical artists, both unions that represent workers (actors and ballet dancers) who contend with similarly precarious working conditions (easily replaceable, vulnerable to sexual harassment) to give members access to their legal teams so they can confidentially report improper sexual harassment or abuse. But after learning about the failure of the Models Guild, an actual union for models that was founded in 1995 and met with some resistance from major agencies, Ziff felt the Alliance was the way to go.
“The model’s guild did a lot of great work, that being said, it existed when I was working and I had never heard of them until years later after they folded,” Ziff said. “We’re really working very hard to make sure that all stakeholders in the business feel like they’re a part of this and that this isn’t adversarial.”
“We’re doing our best to send the message that we want to be inclusive and these problems affect everybody in this industry,” Jenna Sauers said. “I know that fashion isn’t a business that’s populated by people that get up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to go exploit some 13 year old Latvians!’…It’s not that these kinds of problems happen because of malice.”