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Topless bar challenges exotic dancers' unionization push

Exotic dancers celebrate unionization vote despite setback
Exotic dancers celebrate unionization vote despite setback 02:15

With champagne flowing and joyous cheers, a group of exotic dancers from North Hollywood celebrated being one step closer to unionizing despite a delay in getting their votes tallied, CBS Los Angeles reports.

"We're just gonna celebrate because we know it's a win," said a dancer named Regan.

The group's been fighting since March against what they claim are "unfair labor practices" at the Star Garden Topless bar in North Hollywood.

If they succeed, they'd be "the only strippers in the United States represented by a union," according to the union they're trying to join, Actors' Equity.


"There were so many things they were letting slide — that told me the dancers' safety was their absolute lowest priority and I was sick of it," said Regan.

She led the fight after, she said, she was fired for bringing up safety concerns. 

"I came to him with a legitimate safety concern and he ridiculed me and made jokes about how I was going to be murdered by that customer," she said. 

In August, the group decided to join Actors' Equity, which represents stage performers all over the nation.

While 30 ballots were mailed out, only 18 came back to be tallied Monday night. However, after an hour of a closed meeting, the vote was stopped after the dancers' employer challenged 16 of the 18.

"We can assume that the employer is continuing to challenge whether these dancers ever worked at Star Garden," said Actors' Equity President Kate Shindle. 

Shindle and the dancers expected the argument, since one of their chief complaints was how they weren't paid on occasion.

"They're calling us lessees, so we're paying a fee to rent the space," said one dancer who goes by the name Velveeta. 

"Of course, we were employees of that space," said Regan. "They're just delaying because it's the only argument they have. It's kind of sad."

Although the dancers feel a little deflated, they know they haven't been defeated. 

"Those 16 challenged ballots are [yes votes]," said one dancer. "We know how we voted so this is a win. This is 16 yes votes."

The National Labor Relations Board will schedule a hearing to decide whether the challenged ballots should be accepted. The process could take weeks or months.

"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," Shindle said. "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."  

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