A group of strippers at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood, Los Angeles have won an historic victory in their fight to unionize, setting a precedent for similar efforts across the country.
After a 15-month battle, lawyers representing the club have withdrawn all election challenges and agreed to recognize the union. The dancers will join the Actors’ Equity Association, a union that represents more than 51,000 actors and stage managers.
The victory comes after a tumultuous year for the club, which saw dancers barred from their workplace starting in March 2022 after raising health and safety concerns with management in a petition. Dancers described the lack of COVID-19 precautions, patrons filming them without consent, and dangerous stage conditions.
For the next eight months, the strippers and their supporters picketed weekly in front of the Star Garden on the bar’s busiest nights. Every night was a party; blocked strippers wore themed costumes, put on runway shows, and encouraged people to go to other strip clubs.
The agreement ends a six-month limbo after the union election process began. The November election results were shelved due to legal challenges from employers. Star Garden claimed that most of the people the union says are eligible to vote were never Star Garden employees, but “tenants” who should not be allowed to vote. Employers have also filed for bankruptcy, a move that can void union contracts.
With the certification of the union election vote, the strippers will now be able to engage in collective bargaining with management. This marks a major victory for strippers in the US, as they become the first in the country to unionize.
Reagan, a Star Garden dancer who said she had been fired from her after voicing her safety concerns to management, said in a statement: “This has been a long and grueling fight, so this victory is so sweet”.
Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity, said in a statement: “We look forward to a productive relationship with the club that benefits the dancers and also helps the club thrive”. As part of its agreement with the union, Star Garden has agreed to emerge from bankruptcy and the club will reopen within 30 to 60 days of the bankruptcy dismissal.
The importance of this victory for strippers across the US and beyond should not be overlooked. A unionized stripper workforce will not only ensure that strippers receive better wages and improved safety, but will also set a precedent for other sex workers looking to unionize.