In the heart of Los Angeles County, a labor movement unlike any other is unfolding. Sex workers, often relegated to the shadows of the labor discourse, are stepping into the limelight, demanding rights equivalent to mainstream entertainment industry workers. This burgeoning movement, spearheaded by the dancers at the Star Garden topless bar, is not just a fight for fair wages and safer work environments; it's a challenge to longstanding stigmas associated with sex work.
In May 2022, Star Garden dancers declared their intent to unionize, setting in motion a series of events that have since captured national attention. This move toward unionization was more than a demand for better working conditions; it was a direct challenge to longstanding, industry-wide discriminatory hiring practices and wage theft.
"They don't pay us, they take half of our lap dance money and that is wage theft, illegal wage theft and we need to correct that," said one dancer.
The movement has quickly gained momentum, drawing support from the Actors Equity Association. The sex workers' movement has even celebrity endorsements and media attention.
Yet despite their progress, the dancers at Star Garden continue to face challenges. Allegations of unfair labor practices and retaliation for union activities underscore the ongoing battle these workers face. The club management's actions – from charging for lap dances to imposing a cover fee – are at the heart of this dispute. The dancers' fight for just treatment and fair payment is not just about them; it's a fight for the dignity and rights of all sex workers.
This movement extends far beyond the walls of the Star Garden. It's a rallying cry for sex workers across the spectrum, from escorts to street workers. They are challenging not only city and federal laws but societal perceptions. With the 2028 Olympics on the horizon, these workers are advocating for their safety, the decriminalization of their work, and a clear distinction between sex work and human trafficking.