North Hollywood’s Star Garden Bar Clears Way for Stripper Unionization With Actors’ Equity
Dancers at North Hollywood’s Star Garden Topless Dive Bar are one step closer to becoming the only unionized strippers in the United States.
Attorneys for Star Garden recently withdrew their challenges to a union election for the workers in a settlement hearing, union Actors’ Equity announced on Tuesday. That clears the way for a National Labor Relations Board vote count that will take place on Thursday; if the majority of the strippers vote to join the union, then their union will be certified. As part of the agreement, dancers who have been dismissed will be restored to their positions at the club, and the club will reopen pending the dismissal of an ongoing bankruptcy case. 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 bargain a contract.”
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In a comment provided by attorneys, Star Garden said it also “expects that Actors’ Equity will be certified as the collective bargaining representative of its dancers and disc jockey.” The employer said that it “is committed to negotiating in good faith with Actor’s Equity a first of its kind collective bargaining agreement which is fair to all parties.”
The Star Garden workers have been attempting to unionize for 15 months. In a statement, Star Garden stripper and organizer Reagan called the unionization effort a “long, exhausting fight, which is why this victory is so sweet.” Added fellow dancer Sinder, “This is a big day for us and dancers everywhere.”
Alleging compensation issues and unsafe working conditions, a number of Star Garden strippers (including those who have not worked at the club for months, after what some describe as retaliatory firings) picketed the Lankershim Boulevard club on weekend nights. After several months of these protests, which boasted themes and reliably drew crowds of supporters, the striking workers decided to unionize. As one dancer told THR in August, “We weren’t making any headway, [and] we knew that we didn’t want to go back to the club without the full protections of the union and a union contract.”
The group initially considered forming an independent union with labor and advocacy group Strippers United. After determining that they needed to partner with an established union with more resources, though, the workers got in touch with Actors’ Equity. The union, historically the bargaining representative for stage actors and stage managers, wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, but it was enthusiastic in its support. At a rally in August, union president Kate Shindle told the crowd of the Star Garden employees, “They work hard, they are entertainers and artists and athletes, and now they are our siblings in the labor movement.”
The NLRB granted the group an election in October, and mail-in ballots were first sent out Oct. 14. However, the ballot count, originally set for November, was delayed by employer challenges. The NLRB had set a hearing over these challenges for this week, but that meeting has now been canceled, due to the agreement between the employer and the workers.
In a statement on Tuesday, Shindle said, “The Star Garden dancers have been absolute warriors throughout this long process, and I’m thrilled that we’ve won recognition of their rights to safety and democracy in the workplace and representation at the bargaining table.”
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