North Hollywood dancers aim to be only unionized strippers in US

Dancers at a topless bar in North Hollywood have received approval from the National Labor Relations Board for a union recognition election, a move officials said could make them the only strippers in the United States represented by a union, according to the decision obtained on Friday, Oct. 7.

The NLRB scheduled a mail ballot for dancers and disc jockeys at Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in an order issued Thursday. The ballots will be mailed Oct. 14 and counted Nov. 7.

If workers choose to be represented by a union and the NLRB certifies the election results, the Star Garden dancers’ bargaining unit could be affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers employed in live theater.

“Every worker who wants a union deserves a union, including the live performers in strip clubs,” said Kate Shindle, president of Equity. “This decision moves us one step closer. The employer deployed every tactic they could think of to stall or prevent a union election, choosing to allocate resources to a union-busting law firm instead of simply negotiating a fair contract with their workers.”

“This ruling by the NLRB affirms that the Star Garden dancers have the right to vote on whether our union will represent them,” she added.

“Equity is eager to join them at the bargaining table to secure a contract that provides protections against discrimination and harassment, addresses health and safety concerns, and spells out wages, benefits and otherspecifics.”

Shindle said she was “tremendously inspired by their passion and commitment, their collective conscience and the incredible solidarity I witness every time we meet with them, whether on Zoom or on the picket line.”

Equity first announced that it was organizing the workers at Star Garden in August, following months of picketing on the part of the strippers who said they had been locked out of their jobs.

Equity was confident that the labor board would accept the union’s petition, Shindle said.

Club management could not be reached for comment.

The union is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Dancers at Star Garden began picketing outside the club in March t protest alleged unsafe working conditions with the assistance of Strippers United, an organization that advocates for strippers’ rights. The club’s dancers say they are not adequately protected from threatening and abusive behavior by patrons.

If a majority of the roughly 30 Star Garden dancers eligible to vote elect Equity as their bargaining representative, the newly unionized strippers would then begin negotiating their first contract with Star Garden’smanagement.

Strippers at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady organized the Exotic Dancers Union in 1996. They were affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. The Lusty Lady closed in 2013.

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