Exotic dancers at a topless bar in North Hollywood filed a petition Wednesday for a union recognition election, in a move union officials said could make them the only strippers in the U.S. represented by a union.
If the National Labor Relations Board grants the petition and dancers at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar vote to unionize, their bargaining unit would be affiliated with Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers employed in live theater.
"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,'' she added.
"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 union is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Dancers at Star Garden began picketing outside the club in March to protest alleged unsafe working conditions with the assistance of Strippers United, an organization that advocates for strippers' rights. The club's dancers say they are not adequately protected from threatening and abusive behavior by patrons.
Club management could not be reached for comment.
If the NLRB schedules an election date and certifies that a majority of the roughly 30 Star Garden dancers eligible to vote have elected Equity as their bargaining representative, the newly unionized strippers would then begin negotiating their first contract with Star Garden's management.
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.
A rally in support of the dancers is scheduled for Friday evening outside Equity's North Hollywood office, after which Shindle and Equity members will join dancers on the picket line at the bar, which is located at 6630 Lankershim Blvd.