Nude Dancers in S.F. Vote to Unionize
It wasn’t your typical voting booth, sitting at the end of a dark row of peep show doors.
But it served its purpose for nude dancers at the Lusty Lady. The women voted 57-15 to join a union, apparently the only nude dancers currently unionized in the nation.
“This is a historical moment, fantastic for sex workers everywhere,” said Dawn Passar, co-founder of the Exotic Dancers Alliance, an advocacy group that joined with the Service Employees International Union, Local 790, to engineer the vote.
“I think it’s great, although I’m not surprised we won,” said a dancer who identified herself as Jane. “It was kind of anticlimactic, after fighting for it for so long. Watching them count the votes was really unreal.”
The employees of the Lusty Lady, a fixture in the city’s red light district for 15 years, are not the first in the industry to unionize. Dancers at a similar club in San Diego voted to unionize several years ago, but new workers later voted to decertify that union.
Lusty Lady general manager June Cade, who had fought the union, seemed resigned after the results of Friday’s vote were announced, and several dancers gave her hugs and words of encouragement.
“I’m satisfied that this is really what people wanted,” Cade said. “So it’s a new world, a new start. We’ll just go on from here.”
Sanda Steinbauer, the dancers’ representative at Local 790, said negotiations for a contract should begin within two weeks.
Steinbauer said the dancers asked her to concentrate on developing a concrete schedule of raises and raising salaries of beginning dancers. The dancers now earn $11 to $24 per hour.
Dancers also have said they are concerned about health care and sick leave benefits, favoritism and inconsistency in scheduling, Steinbauer said.