A Huge Congratulations to the Dancers at California’s Star Garden, the Nation’s Only Unionized Strippers
Across the country, more workers are unionizing every day. Even better, unexpected industries are leading the charge. The most recent example is dancers at Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood, who have just become the only group of unionized strippers in the country.
It was a hard-won victory after fifteen months of striking, picketing, and negotiations. The labor action started in March of 2022 over workplace safety concerns, as the dancers felt they had an unsafe working environment but couldn’t talk about it for fear of being fired.
I had the chance to message Reagan, one of the unionized dancers at the Star Garden who was fired out of retaliation.
“Stripping is typically an isolating industry for the worker. We absorb a particular narrative that we are lone sharks, hustling in a closed bubble, and that any commiserating or camaraderie is a distraction from the goal: to ‘make bank’ and get out,” Reagan explained. “But that narrative is only true if we believe it, and we are proof that talking to your coworkers and standing up for each other can make real change and big waves. We stood up and made demands, we persevered, and while it wasn’t easy or quick (15 months from petition to settlement), we WON! We have broken ground on a new methodology of engaging in this work. We can stand strong together; we can unionize. And if strippers can unionize, I truly believe any industry can!”
That’s not to say there haven’t been unionized strip clubs in the past; San Francisco’s Lusty Lady was well-known for being one of the few unionized sex businesses in the U.S., from the late 90s to its closure in 2009. Others also cite the Pacer in San Diego, though management allegedly decertified the union by adding a clause about dancers not needing to join the union. In any case, the country has been without a unionized strip club for quite a while and it’s about time.
The Star Garden Dancers are also not the only dancers who are working for better conditions; the Haymarket Pole Collective is a sex worker advocacy group that is currently working with strippers in Oregon and Chicago, as well as across the country. All of this also serves as a reminder that sex workers are workers and must not be left out of conversations about unions and strikes.
They may very well be the workers leading the charge.
(featured image: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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