Saturday, October 24, 2009

Justice for Strippers!

Recently, performers at the Golden Banana gentlemen's club in Peabody, Massachusetts have filed a class-action lawsuit against the club's owners, over wages and benefits.

Now, before you snicker and make snide remarks, let me set the record on how these ladies are treated -- not just at this establishment, but across the country.

If you're an exotic dancer, the club doesn't consider you an employee. You're categorized as an "independent contractor", which means the club doesn't need to pay payroll taxes, Social Security contributions, healthcare or other benefits.

Now this makes sense if you're a comedy club hiring new talent every night, with the comics touring from one club to another. But the Golden Banana and many other clubs make the performers sign a contract enjoining them from performing at any other establishment. Not to mention dictating what music they can dance to, what wardrobe they can wear ... some independence!

And that's just for starters. Performers are required to pay a fee to get on stage. Their pay is in customer tips -- no salary, no commission for getting customers to buy overpriced drinks -- and they are required to share their tips with salaried employees. If you're sick, or have a kid or elderly parent to take care of, that's one more day you don't make any money.

I've also heard from women who work in these clubs that the owners encourage a "pecking order" among performers, with favorites getting choice money-making slots above others. That means that, while a few will make good money, many just make a living, sometimes just breaking even or losing money on bad nights.

It's about time the so-called "gentlemen" who own these clubs treat their ladies with the respect and dignity they deserve. They are the reason people come in and spend money. They deserve fair payment for their work.

If they're going to be "independent contractors" then let them be independent. Let them perform at any club, not just yours. Drop the performance fees, and take a twenty percent commission of their tips. Let them choose their music and wardrobe, and encourage creativity in their performances. Perhaps the club owners and the performers could get together to set up plans for group health insurance, disability insurance, and 401K's. And if a club wants to retain a performer exclusively, then sit down and negotiate a fair contract for their talent.

Compensation is just one part of the equation. There is also the fundamental issue of respect. Exotic dancers work for their money, and deserve to be treated with the same dignity as any other working artist. And not just from the club's owners, but their clients as well. If they're willing to take it all off for us, then it's high time we take a stand for them.


  1. Thanks for spreading awareness about this. You would be suprised how often I have to educate people who ask how much I get paid. It's really scary when you have to pay just to have the chance to work and make money, without any guarantee that you'll take anything home.

    Some clubs charge a stage fee, and then charge by the dance, and then there is tip out to the DJ, bartenders, cocktail waitresses, and security. Especially after the recession hit, clubs have been overbooking dancers so that they can collect stage fees. When bar sales are down, the extra dancers mean more income for the club, just in stage fees alone.

    When people say that stripping is exploitive towards women and that we are treated like meat, they should know that the people who have treated me most poorly are the clubs that I pay to work at, not my customers.

  2. One more thing- I think I should add that there is also the issue of clubs that can't be bothered to even provide safe working conditions for the ladies who pay them to work.

    For example, a club in Portland could barely be bothered to remove an long unused hook that was for aerial silk next to the top of the pole, which a dancer inevitably gashed her forehead open on. The club owner was put out over being asked to remove it, and over her leaving early, even though she was bleeding and it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

    I pay $34-$54, depending on the shift, just to be able to work (and that's more fair than most clubs), and I still have no control over broken mirrors on the stage at my club, cleanliness, etc.

    In fact, in the fall of 2005 in Portland, there was an outbreak of staph among dancers, and in my mind, there is no doubt that it was because of the conditions of the work environments that we pay to have the privilege to work in.

  3. Go strippers,
    check out the Erotic Service Providers Union Page on Dancers, let me know if you need any help,

  4. I hope one day that strippers, entertainers and exotic dancers will no longer be stigmatized, especially in the West. It really disturbs how conservative the West really is.