Dancers at North Hollywood’s Star Garden Topless Dive Bar are one step closer to becoming the only unionized strippers in the United States.
Star Garden lawyers recently withdrew their objection to a workers’ union election during a settlement hearing, Union Actors’ Equity announced Tuesday. That clears the way for a tally of National Labor Relations Board votes to take place on Thursday; if the majority of strippers vote to join the union, their union will be certified. As part of the agreement, strippers who have been fired will be reinstated in their positions at the club, and the club will reopen pending the dismissal of an ongoing bankruptcy case for the club. The union says it is so confident in the outcome of the vote that “dancers working with lawyers and union representatives will now prepare to negotiate a contract.”
In a commentary from lawyers, Star Garden said it also “expects Actors’ Equity to be certified as the collective bargaining agent of its dancers and disc jockey.” The employer said it is “committed to negotiating in good faith with Actor’s Equity on a unique collective bargaining agreement that is fair to all parties.”
The strippers of Star Garden have been trying to form a union for 15 months. In a statement, Star Garden stripper and organizer Reagan called the union effort a “long, exhausting battle, which is why this victory is so sweet.” Fellow dancer Sinder added: “This is a big day for us and dancers everywhere.”
A number of Star Garden strippers (including those who have not worked at the club for months, following what some describe as retaliatory attacks) protested the Lankershim Blvd, which allegedly had compensation issues and unsafe working conditions. club for months on weekend nights. After several months of these protests, which prided themselves on themes and reliably drew masses of supporters, the striking workers decided to unite. As one dancer told THR in August: “We were making no progress, (and) we knew we didn’t want to go back to the club without the full protection of the union and a union contract.”
The group initially considered forming an independent union with union and advocacy group Strippers United. After determining they needed to work with an established union with more resources, the strippers got in touch with Actors’ Equity. The union, historically the bargaining agent for stage actors and stage managers, was not necessarily an obvious choice, but was enthusiastic in its support. At a rally in August, union president Kate Shindle told the crowd of Star Garden strippers, “They work hard, they’re entertainers and artists and athletes, and now they’re our brothers and sisters in the labor movement.”
The NLRB granted the group an election in October, and ballots were first mailed on October 14. However, the vote count, originally scheduled for November, was delayed by employer challenges. The NLRB had held a hearing this week on these challenges, but that meeting has now been canceled due to the employer-employee agreement.
In a statement on Tuesday, Shindle said: “The Star Garden dancers have been absolute warriors throughout this long process, and I am delighted that we have received recognition for their rights to safety and democracy in the workplace and to representation at the negotiating table. .”