UNION: MSNBC Calls for Fashion Industry 'Norma Rae'

MSNBC is very upset about one "highly-unregulated industry" and its "questionable and even abusive" working conditions.

What industry? Coal mining or perhaps sewage treatment? No. Keli Goff, an author and political analyst who has a "Daily Rant" on MSNBC's "Dylan Ratigan Show," was complaining about the working conditions of models.

That's right, models. The people paid to walk down runways in designer clothing and be photographed for magazines and advertisements that as Goff put it, essentially are "paid for being beautiful." Every industry has its own problems and accidents, but is the modeling industry really a "human rights" issue as MSNBC would have its viewers believe?

Goff detailed "disturbing" complaints from models and promoted regulation and unionization of the industry. She even called for a "home-grown supermodel" to become the "Norma Rae of the fashion industry." "Union! As Norma Rae said," Goff declared. Norma Rae was a movie starring Sallie Field about a minimum-wage cotton mill worker, based on the life of an actual textile worker who battled to unionize her mill.

But some of the conditions Goff mentioned cannot compare to the tough working conditions of many other industries. She complained about the lack of health insurance and worker's comp for a model that had been burned by a photographers' bulb, but didn't mention whether or not the model could afford her own health care.

According to San Diego Model Management, in most markets models make an hourly rate of $150 and usually have minimum number of hours (3-4) for print modeling. In bigger markets like New York City "it's not unusual for a model to make 5 or 6 thousand a day," the company's website states. True, there are agency fees but the models definitely aren't exactly scraping by on minimum wage.

But it was the obsession with too thin models that really upset Goff and prompted her call for regulation of the U.S. fashion industry.

"After being discovered walking down the street, [Gerren] Taylor walked in her first fashion show at the age of 12 and was strutting for high profile designers like Tommy Hilfiger by age 13. Her career however was over by age 14, having been told she'd become ‘too obese' for runways. Taylor's measurements: Six feet tall and a size 4," Goff said.

Goff continued: "Taylor's story reinforces a reason the fashion industry needs regulation. Fashion's developed a sick obsession with looking sickly thin in recent years." Certainly, many designers are obsessed with thin but that problem shouldn't be solved by regulation.

Designers are in a business, and they sell a product. So if their product, in this case clothing promoted by very thin women, won't sell, then they'll have to change or lose business.

Despite Goff's support for Madrid and London regulations about size and age of models, the U.S. government should not be in the business of telling designers what size models they can hire to show off their clothing lines.

Additionally, Goff cited concern about the fact that many models work long before they turn 18, but she didn't mention anything in her "rant" about parental responsibility or involvement. It wasn't until Dylan Ratigan asked about parents in his final question that she said they have often "relinquished" [control] and there isn't much oversight "in the field."

Perhaps, Goff should have complained about the lack of parental involvement and called on models' parents to be in control of protection their children instead of asking for the government to step in as nanny.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.