Los Angeles – A majority of the dancers employed at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood today filed a petition for a union recognition election with the National Labor Relations Board. If the dancers win their election and the results are certified by the NLRB, the Star Garden workers will become the only strippers in the United States represented by a union. The bargaining unit will be affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers employed in live theatre.
This is a first for Equity, a union with more than a century of history. Equity is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and renowned for representing actors and stage managers on Broadway; in Los Angeles at theatres such as the Pantages; as well as in dozens of smaller theatres across Southern California; on stages at Walt Disney World in Orlando; and prominent regional theatres across the country such as the Guthrie in Minneapolis and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
"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," said Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle. "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. Equity is well situated to advocate for these workers, and we are excited to welcome them into the labor movement at this extraordinary time. We applaud their efforts to seize their collective power and unionize, like so many others across the country who are fed up with toxic workplaces. When they approached us for support, we did what unions should do: we said yes."
The spark that ignited the unionization campaign was lit in March, when the club’s security guards repeatedly failed to protect dancers from threatening and abusive behavior from patrons. Dancers at Star Garden, with the assistance of Strippers United, a 501(c)3 organization led by strippers that advocates for strippers’ rights, began picketing outside the strip club to protest unsafe working conditions.
"We like what we do," said Velveeta, a Star Garden dancer. "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."
Following today’s filing, the next step will be for the NLRB to schedule an election date for the roughly 30 Star Garden dancers eligible to vote. Once the NLRB certifies that a majority of those voting have elected Equity as their bargaining representative, the newly unionized strippers will begin negotiating their first contract with Star Garden’s management. In the meantime, informational picketing and a public information campaign to engage Star Garden’s patrons will continue.
A rally in support of Star Garden’s dancers has been scheduled for this Friday, August 19, at 6:30 p.m., outside Equity's offices, 5636 Tujunga Avenue in North Hollywood. Following the rally, Shindle and Equity members will join Star Garden’s dancers on the picket line at Star Garden Topless Dive Bar, 6630 Lankershim Blvd., in North Hollywood.
Star Garden’s dancers are not the first strippers to seek union recognition. 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.
"Strippers United stands in solidarity with the Star Garden dancers as they partner with Equity to form the first stripper union in over 25 years," the strippers’ advocacy group said in a statement. "We are excited and proud to see this next step take place, and Strippers United will be in close connection with these fierce workers as their journey continues on."
For more information about Actors’ Equity Association please visit: www.actorsequity.org. For anyone who works on the live stage as an actor, stage manager, or stripper and is interested in organizing a union please see www.actorsequity.org/organize to begin a conversation with an Equity organizer.
ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks
August 17, 2022