A group of Oregon strippers are planning to lobby the state legislature to implement better health and safety requirements for strip clubs, including better security and a requirement to display a poster about entertainers' rights. It's the first time a group of dancers have used the legislative system to push for better working conditions, and it's kind of awesome.
Portland is notable for its zillions of strip clubs, and Willamette Week reported last week that a group of dancers and advocates have convinced State Rep. Shemia Fagan of East Portland to sponsor two bills relating to workplace safety:
One bill would require clubs to display posters on the rights of live entertainers and establish a hotline where dancers could anonymously report complaints, including wage disputes and sex trafficking.
Another bill would create health and safety standards for the workplace, including mandating cleanliness of the stages and poles dancers use during their performances. The bill would also allow dancers to review a club's security footage upon request if they face incidents or altercations that occur on the job.
Most U.S. strip clubs classify their dancers as independent contractors instead of employees, a neat little tax loophole that allows them not to pay for things like workers comp or insurance. But the coalition of Oregon dancers who plan to lobby the state—they're working with the National Association of Social Workers and two hired lobbyists to make that happen—aren't pushing to be classified as employees. (Most dancers prefer the contractor system, which allows for better take-home pay and more flexibility to move between clubs as desired.)
Instead, according to Elle Stanger, a stripper at the Lucky Devil Lounge (and a writer for the always awesome Tits and Sass), they're working on more basic requirements. Stanger told the Associated Press that one of the more pressing issues at clubs is basic maintenance: "Some of the buildings are literally dilapidated and not maintained. You have entertainers that could injure themselves from broken glass on the stage, poor wiring with the sound system. We just want to get these workplaces up to a minimum safety standard at least."
Not surprisingly, the idea of any passing any new laws is getting a lukewarm reception from strip club industry groups. Claude DaCorsi, a strip club operator operator and president of the Oregon chapter of the Association of Club Executives told the AP that the industry policed itself and didn't need additional laws: "How did it get to this point where entertainers got fed up to the point where they felt we need to enact a law or do some legislation around this?"
Stanger stands outside the Lucky Devil. Image via AP