Dancers at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in Los Angeles have voted to become the only unionised strippers in the US – joining a growing trend of young employees seeking workplace protection though labour mobilisation.
On May 18, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board announced that balloted employees at the topless bar had voted 17-0 in favor of joining the Actors’ Equity Association.
It makes Star Garden the first unionised strip club since the now-defunct Lusty Lady in San Francisco and Seattle. That 1996 union campaign was later the subject of the documentary “Live Nude Girls Unite”.
Lusty Lady shut its doors in Seattle in 2010, and three years later in San Francisco, making Star Garden if not the first then at present the only unionised strip club. But given the high-profile nature of the campaign – and the impact of union drives among young staff elsewhere – I believe that there is a high chance that Star Garden won’t be the last strip joint to unionise.
Rusty nails, broken glass
Star Garden is the latest in a string of organising breakthroughs. In 2022, 2,510 petitions for union representation were filed with National Labor Relations Board elections – a 53% increase from 2021 and the highest number since 2016. Petitions for union elections have continued to increase in 2023.
Just as at Star Garden,…