Strippers Win Effort To Form Union At North Hollywood's Star Garden Topless Dive Bar
More than a year after dancers at Star Garden Topless Dive bar in North Hollywood started trying to form the only union for strippers in the U.S., the bar's owners have agreed to recognize the union.
The dancers began picketing last March when a dancer whose stage name is Reagan said she'd been fired after going to management with safety concerns.
In a statement released Tuesday, Reagan called the efforts to form the union "a long, exhausting fight, which is why this victory is so sweet.”
“We put everything we have into this campaign, and we were fortunate to have the support and solidarity from the club’s patrons, our allies and friends, the labor movement, and our union, Actors' Equity Association,” she said.
What the owners are saying
The bar's owners "withdrew all election challenges, agreed to recognize the union and will meet with Actors’ Equity Association across the bargaining table within 30 days to negotiate a first contract," union organizers said in a statement.
Attorney An Ruda, who represents the club's owners, said in an emailed statement that "Star Garden decided to settle, as it has always been a fair and equal opportunity employer, that respects the rights of its employees."
Ruda said the club is "committed to negotiating in good faith with Actors' Equity a first of its kind collective bargaining agreement which is fair to all parties."
What happens next
As a result of the settlement, the National Labor Relations Board will count all the votes this week and is expected to certify Actors’ Equity Association as the bargaining agent for the dancers. That's after a six-month delay due to Star Garden challenging the eligibility of some voters.
The agreement also means the club will reopen, and that dancers dismissed last year will be reinstated.
“Strippers are live entertainers. While some elements of their job are unique, they are essentially performance artists, and have a lot in common with other Equity members who dance for a living,” Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle said in the news release.
Why the dancers pushed for change
Star Garden dancers told LAist they're proud of what they have accomplished. A stripper who goes by the stage name Wicked said the fight was well worth it.
"We're almost better than we were before. We're more knowledgeable. We have a large fan base and ... the diversity and inclusion that we desire is going to benefit everyone," Wicked said. "None of us were going to back down. We were all going to do what needed to be done."
Reagan, the stripper who said she was fired last year after complaining to management, told LAist that she hopes Star Garden can set a new industry standard.
"We're really looking forward to actually working together to make the club super successful, that's in all of our best interests," Reagan said. "And to have it be a beacon and an example of how a unionized strip club can be successful in America, and why this is a good move for the industry in general."
Why it matters
The statement from Actors Equity spelled out some of the many challenges strippers face in their industry:
"Dancers at Star Garden and other strip clubs routinely have issues with health and safety as well as compensation, including wage theft. Like workers in other occupations, they want health insurance and other benefits. And probably more than most, they need protection from sexual harassment."
"Strippers really deserve a union," Reagan said. "It will make the industry better."
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