North Hollywood Strippers Move to Unionize With Actors’ Equity in Historic Labor Vote

Majority of the club’s 30 dancers have petitioned for an NLRB election after months of protest

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Actors’ Equity Association announced on Wednesday that strippers are on the verge of being admitted into its union as workers at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood filed a petition with the NLRB to be represented by the live entertainment performers’ guild after five months of protest.

Since March, strippers at Star Garden have protested against their employers over various issues including wage theft and a failure by the bar’s security to protect them from unruly patrons. This week, a majority of the bar’s 30 performers, with the assistance of the advocacy group Strippers United, filed to hold a unionization vote with the National Labor Relations Board. In the meantime, the strippers say they will continue protesting and organizing other workers.

 “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.”

“We like what we do,” said Velveeta, a Star Garden dancer in a statement. “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.” 

If the unionization vote passes, which Actors’ Equity expects given that the majority of the strippers signed on to the vote petition, Star Garden would become the only strip club in the United States with unionized performers. The first successful unionization drive by strippers occurred in 1996, when performers at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco voted to unionize with SEIU. That location closed in 2013.

Equity is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and represents actors and stage managers on Broadway; in Los Angeles at theaters such as the Pantages; as well as in dozens of smaller theaters across Southern California; on stages at Walt Disney World in Orlando; and prominent regional theaters 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,” Actors’ Equity Association president Kate 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,” Shindle continued. “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.”