The stars of the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar have filed a petition with the federal government, beginning a process that could see them represented by the Actors’ Equity union, in what officials described as a first.
“We like what we do,” said Velveeta, a dancer at the Star Garden. “We would like our jobs even more if we had basic labor protections.”
The Equity Union already represents more than 51,000 artists and stage managers across the United States, many of them in and around Los Angeles.
“Strippers are live performers, and while many aspects of their work are unique, they have much in common with the other members of Equity who dance for a living,” said Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle.
“These dancers reported ongoing pay 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 unfair dismissal.”
The petition was presented to the National Labor Relations Board, which must schedule a vote for the thirty eligible strippers.
If a majority votes to unionize, Equity will begin negotiating a new contract with Star Garden on your behalf.
Meanwhile, the exotic dancers say they will picket the club in the city’s North Hollywood area, with what Equity called “a public information campaign to engage Star Garden patrons.”
The campaign is supported by Strippers United, a non-profit group that defends the rights of dancers.
No one at Star Garden, which has an average of four stars on Yelp, answered the phone when AFP called on Wednesday.
Although Equity has never had stripper members, it is not the first time they have organized in the United States.
The dancers who work at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady formed the Exotic Dancers Union in 1996, Equity noted. That club closed in 2013.
Wednesday’s move comes amid increased interest from workers across the United States in unionizing, with staff at several Starbucks branches among the most prominent.
Until the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022 – from October 1 to June 30 – 1,935 unionization campaigns were filed with the National Labor Relations Board, 56% more than the previous year.