The Striking Strippers of North Hollywood Could be Joining Actors’ Equity

“We like what we do. We would like our jobs even more if we had basic worker protections,” said Star Garden dancer Velveeta
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A majority of the 30 dancers who work at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood—who have been on strike since March—filed today for a union recognition election with the National Labor Relations Board. If they win their election and the results are confirmed by the NLRB, the Star Garden dancers will become the only strippers in the country represented by a union. The bargaining unit they would be affiliated with is Actors’ Equity.

It’s a logical pairing, as Actors’ Equity is the union representing over 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, including those on Broadway, and both actors and topless dancers are performers, facing similar workplace challenges.

“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,” Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle told Broadway World. “In my conversations with them, 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.”

Dancers interviewed by the Los Angeles Times spoke of wrongful terminations—in one case, a dancer who hadn’t performed enough lap dancers—and sub-par working conditions, such as being filmed by patrons as they danced. There were concerns about being inadequately protected from customers by security, and unsafe conditions in the club itself, like a hole in the stage. In March, some dancers signed a petition demanding improvements, but the ones who did were locked out, which eventually led to the nightly picket lines.

The dancers, who first moved to unionize in June, have shown solidarity on the picket line, holding themed costume nights and bringing out a slip-and-slide for hot summer nights. It’s not just fun and games: they’ve also been holding “Mutual Aid Mondays.”

“We like what we do,” Star Garden dancer Velveeta told Broadway World. “We would like our jobs even more if we had basic worker protections. We’re like so many other workers who have learned that it’s not a choice between suffering abuse or quitting. With a union, together, we can make needed improvements to our workplace.”

The performers also made their case on Instagram, naturally.

 


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