From coffee houses to newsrooms, workers in just about every industry are moving toward unionizing to improve working conditions and job protection. This week, a more unexpected and disenfranchised group of workers are moving toward unionization: strippers.
In mid-March, 15 dancers at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood submitted a petition for better and safer working conditions, allegedly resulting in retaliation in the form of being barred from work. According to the Los Angeles Times, after weeks of protesting outside the club, attempting to dissuade patrons with their accounts of a poor and unsafe environment, the dancers are taking serious action to fight for basic worker protection. The former employees of the strip club have petitioned for union elections. Here’s what you need to know:
- Dancers teamed up with union experts. The dancers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) through Actors’ Equity Association (AEA). The AEA is a live performance-focused labor union that supports 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in the U.S.
- The road to unionization won’t be easy. Since the strippers raising the union bid have been banned from working at the club for five months now, lawyers face the challenge of proving that the dancers were wrongfully let go. Without proof, the former employees cannot participate in a vote, which could hinder the entire union process.
- The dancers filed 30 complaints. Within the span of nine months, these dancers had filed 30 complaints of alleged physical and environmental hazards with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
- This could be the first strip club to unionize since 1996. The Lusty Lady Peepshow in San Francisco was the first strip club to unionize, establishing the Exotic Dancers Union with the Service Employees International Union. That club ultimately closed in 2013, making the Star Garden’s move to unionize a monumental moment for dancers.
The Star Garden couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. In a July statement to BuzzFeed, Star Garden’s lawyer denied “all allegations of misconduct” and described them as “maliciously false,” saying, “We have no further comment save to say we look forward to complete vindication in the proper legal forum.”