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Echo Park in Los Angeles (Photo: Evan Symon for California Globe)

Los Angeles Strip Club Dancers File To Join Union

If successful, club would only become second in recent U.S. history to unionize

By Evan Symon, August 18, 2022 2:29 pm

Strippers at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in the North Hollywood area of Los Angeles filed to join the Actor’s Equity union through petitioning the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday, becoming the first group of such dancers to attempt to join a union in almost 10 years.

According to Actor’s Equity representatives, dancers are seeking more worker protections, as well as more benefits and working to solve current issues such as wage theft.

“Strippers are live entertainers, and while some aspects of their job are unique, they have much in common with other Equity members who dance for a living,” said Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle on Wednesday. “These dancers reported consistent compensation issues, including significant wage theft, along with health and safety risks and violations. They want health insurance and other benefits, like workers’ compensation. They need protection from sexual harassment, discrimination and unjust terminations.”

“Every worker who wants a union deserves a union and should be able to have the protections of fair wages, safe working conditions, benefits and a workplace free from discrimination and harassment and wage theft and all of the things that the Star Garden strippers are telling us they’ve experienced. So this feels like the right thing to do.”

The movement to unionize at Star Garden has been ongoing since March, when complaints to management over customers being aggressive went unresolved. Complaints to Cal/OSHA and picketing outside have occurred in subsequent months leading up to the Wednesday announcement. Actor’s Equity, a union with over 51,000 members, was eventually chosen to be their potential union.

However, public support over the union has been polarizing. While many feel that a union may be justified due to the number of complaints, others note that this is a potentially caustic precedent that may lead to higher costs and the loss of jobs.

“There are many ways around this that don’t involve unionization,” explained Jim Shipman, a Midwest lawyer who has been a part of many cases surrounding strip clubs and unions in the past, to the Globe Thursday. “Dancers leave for a club with better benefits. Agencies like OSHA are tipped off, like what these dancers did. Higher wages can be negotiated. You can even use popularity or competence on the job as leverage for better pay or benefits. There are lots of avenues to go down, but instead they went straight to unionization, which has not been successful in the past.”

“Out of all the dancers who have tried to unionize over the years, only one group has been successful. That was the Lusty Lady in San Francisco in 1996. They lasted until 2013, but they also really didn’t spread this around. The union climate back then wasn’t that strong either. But with unionization increasing now across the US, time seems to be right.”

“But they need to be careful. A lot of places have been shutting down, like Starbucks locations, because of these efforts, as well as other external situations like high crime. Businesses are only now coming back, and many aren’t afraid to just shut down rather than allow unions.”

A vote over unionization at the NoHo strip club is expected to be made soon under guide of the NLRB.

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