Recently, British actors’ union Equity decided to open up to catwalk models. One of them explained to the Guardian that “the mass supply of models has increased so much that models have become disposable labour. Models know this and often don’t complain about mistreatment by their agency, or even if a photographer sexually abuses them, because they fear they may be blacklisted in the industry”.
The decision to organise models was backed by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who threatened to withdraw funding for the London Fashion Week unless the sector would do something about the exploitation of models.
According to the Independent, Equity’s initiative is illustrative of union memberships becoming more diverse. For example, singer Billy Bragg and the band Coldplay supported an initiative to organise roadies. The Roadcrew Provident Syndicate is now a branch of the GMB. And journalists’ union NUJ recently welcomed its first fulltime freelance blogger as a member.
But according to the Independent, Equity has the monopoly on unorthodox members. “We are the union par excellence for representing unusual professions”, spokesperson Martin Brown said. “We once had a lady who was called Vespa Goddess of Fire, but my favourite was Ivan Inversion whose specialty was to hang upside down and recite songs backwards”.