Times Square characters: we don't work for free - My9 New Jersey

Times Square characters: we don't work for free

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Times Square characters want to be taken seriously and want their tips. The mostly immigrant workers are now called the Association of Artists United for a Smile and are fighting to protect their jobs, in light of a recent crackdown.

Jorge Duran says he makes about $150 a day in tips dressing up as the Statue of Liberty. He says he stands around for hours, sweating inside a costume, and says it is annoying and unfair if he poses for a good picture and gets nothing.

Over the last few weeks, the NYPD has arrested at least five costume-wearing workers for aggressive panhandling.

A man dressed as Spider-Man was caught on video punching a police officer.

Last week, the NYPD handed out this flier telling tourists tipping is optional.

But these self-proclaimed artists say it is their right to entertain the public and make a living.

Lucia Gomez, the executive director of La Fuente Inc., says that the folks who pose for photos with characters need to understand that they are working for tips.

A bill is the works that would require the characters to undergo background checks and wear photo ID. Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed his support.

The group representing Elmo isn't against the idea. Gomez says as long as the legislation would be protective of workers' rights they would be open to it.

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