Artists' models of all shapes and sizes in Paris braved the cold Monday to protest against a ban on tips and low salaries that are just above minimum wage.
For waiters and anyone else who has relied on tips to make a living, this is a splashy way to make a statement.
It's not your typical worker protest, and it did get plenty of attention. More than 20 male and female models, some posing nude while others were draped in a shawls, sheets and fur coats, joined the protest that had the backing of two of France's biggest labor unions, Reuters reported.
The models are paid by the Paris town hall and authorities recently decided to enforce a ban on artists' tips, known as "cornet" after a rolled-up cone of drawing paper in which painters traditionally dropped some money for their models. The models, who also want fixed contracts, say the tips account for one-fourth of their salary. They say the average salary was $13 an hour for sessions that typically last around three hours.
They also wanted to quash the misconception that modeling was something that students and retired people did for pocket money.
"This is a craft that should be respected, not just anyone can take their clothes off and hold a pose," Deborah, 28, told The Guardian. She has worked full-time as a model for four years. "It is artistic and physically demanding work." She said she had to swim regularly to stay fit enough to hold poses and felt models should be given access to subsidized municipal sports facilities to keep in shape for their jobs, as well as access to museums to do research for their poses.
A similar protest was held in Rome in January, but the nude models made their statement by putting their clothes back on.
Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.talesofanunemployeddad.blogspot.com