Belonging to a union is a fundamental right, enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights.
Performers have their own union, which in the UK is Equity. Models are categorised as performers and they too have a branch of Equity, the Model Network which is set up for them.
Why do we need a union? seems to be a refrain as far as models are concerned. Or worse 'My agency does not encourage membership of a union'. What a surprise!
Models need a union because many models are minors and there has to be legislation to protect them. Models are vulnerable. Models can be exploited, working long hours, often being compensated with a couple of garments (lovely indeed but do they help to pay the rent?). Equity has negotiated a Model Programme for London Fashion Week and a code of conduct, known as the ten-point code of conduct. But there is a lot more to be done. Models who freelance are especially vulnerable, they need advice on contracts.
Photographer: Mark Chilvers Model: Alex B.
There are huge issues to be tackled, such as the rampant racism on the catwalk, and some of them have been taken up by lobbying bodies such as Models of Diversity and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk. These are powerful lobbies but not unions. They can work together with Equity, but membership of Equity is essential in order to safeguard your position as a professional model.
I have written about this before and will continue to write about it because it is an important matter: if you are a model, a professional, consider joining Equity. You can join online here or contact Equity at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also like the Facebook page and if you are interested you may want to join a steering group within Equity, to make it your model union.