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Tue Nov 20, 2012, 06:29 AM

Organized Labor's Newest Heroes: Strippers

http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/11/organized-labors-newest-heroes-strippers/265376/



The words "labor dispute" make a lot of people imagine big men on a picket line. This, despite the fact that the high-profile workers' struggles of the past year happened in jobs dominated by women stuck with low wages and little respect: from domestic workers securing benefits in New York state, to Chicago's teachers' strikes, to this week's Black Friday actions organized across the country against Wal-Mart. There's another group of women we should add to this list, women who have been continually fighting for their rights at work, who are met with disbelief and retaliation when they stand up, and smirking headlines and punny scorn even when they win.

Last week, strippers employed by the Spearmint Rhino chain won an unprecedented $13 million settlement in Federal court, the result of a class action suit to restore back wages and contest their status as independent contractors of the clubs. Deciding in the dancers' favor is U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips, best known for ruling "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" unconstitutional in 2010. It's one of the largest financial settlements awarded to dancers at a major chain in the United Statesówith 20 locations worldwide, and though Spearmint Rhino would not release this information, it's fair to estimate with several hundred if not several thousand dancers working in their clubs in the United States. In sex workers' ongoing fight for the same rights on the job that any worker should expect, will the dancers' case be a tipping point in the strip club business? "Spearmint Rhino is a big brand." says Bubbles Burbujas, a stripper and one of the co-founders of the popular sex work blog Tits and Sass. "There's no way this won't have an effect."

It's definitely a big win for the 14 dancers named in the suit, but also for dancers in California. Judge Phillips ruled that within 30 days Spearmint Rhino must stop charging dancers what are known as "stage fees" for the right to work. Phillips also ruled that the chain is required to grant all dancers in their clubs employee status within six months, ending the illegal practice of classifying dancers as independent contractors while also placing workplace demands on them that far exceed that legal status. By managing dancers like employees but putting them on the books as independent contractors, club owners get out of paying dancers the benefits they're legally entitled to, which could include worker's compensation, unemployment, and health insurance if they qualify. Owners and management alike tell dancers they're independent, but they still exercise control over dancers on the job, routinely using the kinds of restrictive rules on breaks and conduct you've come to expect of Wal-Mart, not the mythically "anything goes" world of sex work.

"This is a great result," says attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who who specializes in tipped employees and independent contractor misclassification cases, and has represented dancers in class action law suits in several states. "It will put a lot of money in the pockets of women in this industry, but it will also send a clear message to clubs across this country that they should not misclassify dancers as independent contractors. When they look at these numbers in these lawsuits, they realize it's not worth it."

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 06:56 AM

1. fine line between exploitative employers and pimps

Actually, in this case, is there any at all?

I'm sad that there are so few alternative options for these women that they'd have to make a living pretending to be attracted to and turned on by sweaty, pasty, nasty, entitled, flaccid, pathetic male voyeurs, but I'm glad they're obtaining more money for the miserable experience and their pimps less.

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Response to zazen (Reply #1)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 07:04 AM

2. Dancers are not prostitutes. This is a good thing for them and could spark significant change in

 

the industry.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:09 AM

6. that's so strange--I didn't call them prostitutes

As I wrote downthread, men can behave like pimps. That's a completely separate issue from what the women are. If a pimp kidnaps a teenager and tries to force her into prostitution and fails, is he no less a pimp?

No. Pimpdom is vile and stands alone, regardless of the sexual service the women off of whom they profit provide. Is that service naked dancing to directly titillate male customers for cash? Dancing on their laps? Rubbing their crotch? Pulling their pants down and rubbing their crotches? I don't see much of a distinction, and I don't denigrate prostitutes either.

To act as if strippers are superior to prostitutes is problematic to me, as if the prostitutes are dirty and the strippers somehow better women. No, it's the pimps and the johns who are slime. Not the women.

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Response to zazen (Reply #6)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:32 AM

7. Pimps run prostitutes and can only do so because of the unlawful status of that position.

 

(Most) Dancers are not prostitutes. For most of these women, this is the most lucrative employment they will ever have. If you really want to reduce or eliminate the position, fix our profoundly sick society, don't take their livelihood away.

Now, if you want to extend the definition of a pimp to include this, then most employers are pimps and most employees prostitutes. A proposition I would not argue against.

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Response to zazen (Reply #1)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 07:15 AM

4. Understanding the difference between dancers

and hookers is the first step in understanding these women. I had 3 dancers as neighbors several years ago, they hated demeaning women and feminists worse than any male who came to their club..I remember one telling me she had never been made to feel as trashy as a small group of feminists made her feel at a political rally.

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Response to pipoman (Reply #4)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:03 AM

5. men trying to profit off the sexuality of women are pimps

That doesn't make the women prostitutes.

And from what I understand, the women are often pressured into selling their bodies directly to men for more intimate sex (since lap dances are form of sex, just with less boundary invasion).

If a small group of feminists were insensitive and blaming, that doesn't mean all of us are. The world of feminism is a lot more complex and diverse than that.

Of course I'm glad they're getting more money--that's what I said.

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Response to zazen (Reply #5)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 03:53 PM

12. Sounds like a made-up definition...certainly not a dictionary definition..

What about female club owners? What about modeling agencies? What about clothing designers? Where is the line? No, vast numbers of self described feminists are demeaning to dancers, models, and the like. Most are simply jealous because they, themselves, could actually net more money by promising to cover themselves. The three I know were fine doing their thing. Two were going to college and the other was already out with a degree but could make more money dancing.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 07:08 AM

3. I suspect there are millions of people in the US

who are classified on the job as "independent contractors" who's employers don't understand the very specific definition and rules associated with this classification...the rules are very specific and most business can't actually operate within the rules because they have little control over the workers. There have been many class action wins against "independent contractor" employers (sic).

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Response to pipoman (Reply #3)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:48 AM

8. Hey, Bill Gates became the richest man in the world by abusing the independent contractor and

 

temporary worker laws (as well as pretty much every other labor, patent, and anti-trust law).

Why do you hate America?

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Response to pipoman (Reply #3)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 10:05 AM

11. Virtually all actors are ...

As are most real estate agents. Many thousands of tractor trailer owner operators and truckers of various stripes ( like most of the 'FedEx Ground' trucks you see) and hundreds of other professions, both common and obscure.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #11)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 04:15 PM

13. Many smaller businesses who use independent contractors

are in violation. Dress codes, mandatory meetings/appearances, schedules, company owned vehicles, and the list goes on are all disallowed when using independent contractors. I've been an IC for much of my life, and most of my gigs were not true to the classification.

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Response to pipoman (Reply #13)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 05:45 PM

14. A Car Haul firm in Michigan I worked for back in 2000 or so had a suit filed against them for...

such violations.

I can link the court docs if you're interested, but suffice to say, they treated their OO's like independent contractors on paper, but the court sided with the drivers who claimed they were required to perform in a manner that was contrary to the idea of being "independent" ie: the company would starve them from decent loads if they refused crappy loads, etc.

I've worked on a 1099 several times in the past.


Never again. Particularly in a dangerous occupation like Auto Transport.

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Response to A HERETIC I AM (Reply #14)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 08:18 PM

15. It's almost unheard of for small

businesses to prevail in challenges to IC reporting. For all the freedom IC status is supposed to allow, few positions realize it..without even mentioning the incredible tax consequences of 1099 living...I believe there would be a tax revolt in this country if tax withholding wasn't in place for the masses, and every person had to write a check for equivalent of 1099 gross income consequences.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:53 AM

9. I don't see anything wrong with this

Women dancers are not necessarily prostitutes just cause they dance with a pole!

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:58 AM

10. k&r

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Response to xchrom (Original post)


Response to marmax5 (Reply #16)

Wed Nov 21, 2012, 09:48 PM

17. Welcome to DU!

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