Dancers at a Los Angeles strip club have successfully gained union recognition after more than a year of tense negotiations with management, making them the country’s only strippers in an official bargaining collective.
Workers at North Hollywood’s Star Garden won formal recognition on Tuesday when attorneys for the club’s management withdrew their challenges and agreed to recognize the collective during a settlement hearing.
The strippers are now part of Actors’ Equity Association, which comprises over 51,000 actors and stage managers. Negotiations for their first contract will begin shortly, according to a lawyer for management at Star Garden.
“If you have been following our journey, then you know this has been a long, exhausting fight, which is why this victory is so sweet,” Reagan, one of Star Garden’s dancers, told the Los Angeles Times of the 15-month battle with management that included a strike.
“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,” Reagan added.
Actors’ Equity Association defended the dancers’ right to be recognized as union performers.
“Strippers are live entertainers,” the union said in a statement. “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. Every worker who wants a union deserves a union.”
While Star Garden is currently the only strip club with union representation in the U.S., it is not the first strip club to ever organize. In 1996, strippers at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady formed the Exotic Dancers Union under the Service Employees International Union. Lusty Lady closed in 2013, however.
The strippers’ new union recognition comes amid major labor activity in the entertainment industry. The Writers Guild of America began striking on May 2 after contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, an industry group, reached a stalemate.