The Backstory

Posted · Add Comment

Department of Labor Proposed Rules Regarding Child Performers

What began as an attempt to address eating disorders within the modeling world has, three years later, resulted in a set of proposed rules which will jeopardize the safety and financial well being of child performs and drive film, television and theatrical productions away from New York. The Department of Labor has failed to provide child performers with notice of the only hearing for public commentary set two days after Christmas.

History Of The Child Performers Advisory Board

On January 30, 2007, over three years ago, New York Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, introduced legislation creating an advisory board to address eating disorders particular to the modeling industry. Statements by the Assemblyman, published at the time, make it clear that the creation of this board was in direct response to the death of a 21 year old Brazilian model due to an eating disorder.

In August of 2007, just in time for NY Fashion Week, Governor Spitzer formally announced the creation of the Child Performers Advisory Board. This Committee was charged with creating guidelines for the employment of child performers AND MODELS with the specific assignment to address eating disorders within the industry.  According to the meeting videos, they disbanded without specific action plans.

Surprise Move By The Department Of Labor With No Impact To Child Modeling Industry

A few weeks ago, in a surprise move by the Department of Labor (“DOL”), the recommendations of this Committee were published in the November 10, 2010 issue of “The Register,” the legal notification document of the DOL setting in motion a 45 day period after which the proposed rules, if adopted, will become law.   According to New York law, the legislature enacts laws giving state government departments, such as the DOL, broad authority to create rules designed to carry out policy.   Department staff and committees then develop rules to support whatever mission the department believes is in keeping with their legislative mandate.

Surprisingly, the proposed rule will have no consequences to the child modeling industry, the original target of the Advisory Board’s mission, as jurisdiction over child models falls within the Board of Education (BOE) and not the Department of Labor. Sadly, child models will continue to operate unchecked as the modeling industry has declared it is self-policing and the BOE does little to mandate permits.

The Rule Jeopardizes Child Performers & Drives Productions Away From New York

So what began as an attempt to address eating disorders within the modeling world has, three years later, resulted in a set of proposed rules which will jeopardize the safety and financial well being of child performs and drive film, television and theatrical productions away from New York.   The proposed changes to §Section 186 of the New York Department of Labor Rules will, if adopted:

  • dramatically jeopardizes the safety of child performers,
  • gives employers complete discretion to prevent children from having contact with their parent
  • allows a production employee, not subject to criminal background checks, to supervise children
  • subjects child performers to violations of right to privacy,
  • saddles child performers with a make shift tax,
  • increases the likelihood that child performers not be paid for work
  • adds to the burden of missing Trust Account funds
  • escalates production costs
  • drives film, television and theatrical productions away from New York
  • adds more work to the overburdened DOL & Comptroller Offices

Suspicious Timing of Only Hearing Set To Allow For Public Commentary

It is stunning that under DOL rules, no public hearing to allow for public commentary is required by law given the enormous impact these rules will have on child performers, production companies and the New York economy.

The only opportunity for public commentary, the non-mandatory hearing, set for Monday, December 27th at 10:00 a.m. in New York City, can only be viewed with suspicion given that it two days after Christmas. Families may be out of town. Families may be entertaining out of town guest. Families who may wish to be heard may have little opportunity. Cue the snow storm. Not hard to imagine that few Department of Labor representatives will be on hand to hear the testimony and those on hand may not be in leadership positions and able change the course of this bad law. Easy to imagine a clerk who simply gathers the testimony sign-up sheet and respectfully thanks those who attend for their comments.

DOL & Organizations Failed to Provide Notice or Proper Representation

It is important to note that the Department of Labor has failed to notify the any of the approximately 6,000 children working professionally in New York State through the permitting process even though permits require the email, phone and mailing address of the applicant.

The Department of Labor included within their synopsis of the proposed rule a lengthy list of organizations in which they solicited input. Yet, not one of the organizations has announced the proposed rule changes or upcoming hearing to their constituents or attempted to gather input from child performer constituency. Not one of the groups has noted the proposed changes on their web site, disseminated information through their newsletters, facebook or through email blasts.

Accordingly to the DOL, in NYS Register/November 10, 2010:

“The Department conducted significant outreach to various groups that represent child performers and various employers who employ child performers, and asked them to make recommendations regarding the hours and conditions of work, as well as the educational needs, of child performers.

The groups included the following: Actors’ Equity Association, the League of American Theatres, the Motion Picture Association of America, Screen Actors Guild, the Actors Fund, the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, On Location Education, the NYS AFL-CIO, AFTRA, the Professional Performing Arts School, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, the New York City Ballet, New York City Metropolitan Opera House, American Ballet Theatre, and the Broadway League.

The Department also spoke with Dr. Jennifer Berman and Dr. Ron Zodkevitch, two noted psychiatrists, who have both spent considerable time working with child performers; Paul Petersen, a former child performer himself and President and Founder of A Minor Consideration, a non-profit organization that advocates for the concerns and protection of child performers; and Janet Pallozzotto, a mother of a former child performer and recognized advocate. The Department used input from these various groups and individuals to draft Part 186.”

Paul Peterson, one of only two individuals listed as “child advocates,” has also failed to notify child performers through his web site, blog, newsletter or email blast, of the proposed rule and the rule making hearing. It is widely known that Paul Peterson is a very vocal opponent of all parents of` child performers, has no experience as a parent of a child performer and therefore is not an appropriate representative of child performers within this context. Paul Peterson writes on his website, www.minorcon.org:

“Too many parents don’t understand that industry people and their hirelings don’t mind earning dirty money. Our concern is the mess they [employers] leave behind in the lives of both the children they exploit on camera and the children who watch their mindless product.” “It is important to note what the incredibly powerful AMI Corporation represents in this nationwide battle to protect innocent children from the exploitation of the media and their parents.”

Out of all of the groups and individuals noted above, only Janet Pallozzotto, who is noted as a recognized advocate, has attempted to reach out to child performers and their parents to notify them of the upcoming hearing and explain the proposed rule changes through child performer messaging boards. In fact, Janet has been publicly very vocal in opposition of many of the proposed DOL changes including § 186-3.2(10), the rule to address physical and mental health evaluations.

 

Comments are closed.