LA strippers closer to being only unionized dancers in nation

West

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Strippers who would normally be entertaining patrons inside a Los Angeles topless bar were instead outside on the sidewalk picketing Friday.

For the last five months, picketing has become a common occurrence outside North Hollywood’s Star Garden Topless Dive Bar. But now, with the backing of a major national union, they are one step closer to making history.

The dancers, alongside union members from the Actors Equity Association, gathered for a rally Friday as they make strides toward their goal of becoming the only unionized exotic dancers in the country.

“Many of us keep this profession a secret but today is a day of reckoning for this outdated modality,” said a speaker and dancer who identified herself as “Reagan.”

More than 50 supporters showed up to back the dancers with signs, buttons and chants.

Joel Cohen of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE Local 800) attended the rally to support the union effort.

“Everybody has the right to unionize and come together and request decent living standards and wages,” Cohen said.

Actors Equity Association (AEA) President Kate Shindle said the workers will soon vote to be represented by the AEA now that paperwork has been filed with the National Labor Relations Petition Board.

“We win the election, then comes the work of actually negotiating the contract,” Shindle said.

The union represents more than 51,000 actors and stage managers in live theaters, but for the first time, strippers could be included.

“We have things in common and those things are really important. (They are) for example, contract provisions that we know we already have in other contracts that can protect these workers,” Shindle said.

The dancers have accused the club’s management of taking money and allowing strippers to perform in unsafe working conditions. A dancer who goes by the name “Velveeta” believes performers won’t mind paying dues for better protection.

“It’s worth the 3%,” she said. “We are paying 50% right now.”

As noted by Deadline, this wouldn’t be the first time a group of dancers had attempted to become a union, or even succeeded at it. Strippers at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco formed a union in 1996 by becoming affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, though the Lusty Lady eventually closed in 2013, the outlet reported.

Now, the dancers at Star Garden could become the only unionized dancers in the country if they gain representation by the AEA.

Shindle feels the eventual vote will pass and the dancers will be back on stage, but this time with the union’s backing.

“[Management] work so hard to break solidarity,” Shindle said. “Fortunately this is a really powerful and passionate group of workers. I think they are going to have some things to say about that.”

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