The Nation: Let’s Hear It for the Strippers’ Union

By 10:30 AM., the atmosphere inside the National Labor Relations Board conference hall on May 18 was raucous—and for good reason. After a 15-month strike, the locked-out strippers of Star Garden Topless Dive Bar had voted to form the first strip-club dancer’s union since the ’90s. As the ballots came in 17-0 in favor of the union, the dancers filled the room with squeals, hugs, and tears. “It feels like a dream come true,” Velveeta, a lead organizer, said.

Getting here took a fierce fight. The first official election ballot count at the Actor’s Equity Union Hall in November had resulted in multiple ballot challenges, a common union-busting tactic used to diminish a workforce’s eligibility, according to Actors’ Equity general counsel Andrea F. Hoeschen. Star Garden owners had argued that the dancers were “lessees”—meaning they were renting space from their strip club owners, a misclassification that acted as a delay tactic aimed at dragging out and shattering the campaign. Despite this, Kate Shindle, the president of Actors Equity, had remained optimistic. “I [kept] hoping that the Star Garden owners would do the right thing and recognize their workers’ rights,” she said. Unfortunately, the bosses were determined to make the workers—and their demands—vanish in a puff of glitter.