LA strippers want to unionize with Actors Equity Association

From cafes to newsrooms, workers in nearly every industry are heading to unionize to improve working conditions and job protection. This week, a more unexpected and disenfranchised group of workers is heading to unionize: 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, which reportedly resulted in retaliation in the form of a work ban. According to Los Angeles Times, after weeks of protests outside the club, attempting to deter patrons with their tales of a poor and unsafe environment, the dancers are taking serious action to fight for basic worker protections. The strip club’s former employees filed a petition for union elections. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The dancers teamed up with union experts. The dancers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) through the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA). The AEA is a live performance union that supports 51,000 professional actors and managers in the United States.
  • The road to unionization will not be easy. Since the strippers who raised the union offer have been banned from working at the club for five months now, lawyers face the challenge of proving the dancers were wrongfully fired. Without proof, former employees cannot participate in a vote, which could hamper the entire union process.
  • The dancers filed 30 complaints. Within nine months, these dancers had filed 30 complaints of alleged physical and environmental hazards with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
  • It could be the first strip club to unionize since 1996. San Francisco’s Lusty Lady Peepshow was the first strip club to unionize, creating the Exotic Dancers Union with the Service Employees International Union. This club finally closed in 2013, making the Star Garden’s decision to unionize a monumental moment for dancers.

The Star Garden could not immediately be reached for comment. In a statement from July to BuzzFeedStar Garden’s attorney denied “all allegations of misconduct” and called them “maliciously untrue”, saying, “We have no comment other than to say that we look forward to a full vindication in the appropriate legal framework.”

Andrew B. Reiter