NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Dancers at Star Garden Topless Bar in North Hollywood have become the only unionized strippers in the country after 15 months of organizing that began after performers such as one who identified herself as Reagan raised concerns about client interactions getting physical and a rule they say forbade dancers from seeking help from security.
“I was fired for bringing up safety concerns,” Reagan said. “The dancers came together, and they decided to write a safety petition. The petition was not considered. The dancers were locked out the following day and the lockout became a picket line.”
Dancers went on strike for eight months until voting to unionize with Actors Equity Association, but Star Garden owners delayed the tally from being completed by challenging the ballots and filing for bankruptcy. Star Garden owners and dancers eventually reached a settlement and met on May 18 at the National Labor Relations Board offices to complete the process.
Reagan and her fellow dancers won the union election in a unanimous vote.
“We have been working so hard for this,” Reagan said. “It is just so validating.”
With unionization efforts complete, Star Garden owners and dancers are now preparing to begin contract negotiations.
According to Victor Narro, the project director for the UCLA Labor Center, the dancers’ organizing efforts are part of a larger trend of resurging union support.
“The working class in this country is starting to realize they haven’t had it good in many years,” Narro said. “In terms of working conditions, right to good wages, benefits, a lot of exploitation that they have been realizing is happening in many industries. So, unionization has become very popular now.”
Reagan and her fellow dancers are encouraged by the shifting labor landscape and want to send a message that the work they do is as valid as any other.
“You show the world that we are workers, we have rights and then we win something amazing like a union,” Reagan said. “That sets the tone for continued progress for the labor movement as well as for sex work and people who do sex work.”
Star Garden has been closed for months, but is set to reopen within 60 days. Reagan and her fellow dancers are ready and eager to get back to work. This time, on terms they say will keep them safe.