Union effort by strippers at a North Hollywood club stalls

Dancers at a topless North Hollywood bar holding a historic union election awaited results on Monday. You still have to wait a while.

The National Labor Relations Board said on Monday that the majority of ballots were contested by Club Star Garden and the Labor Board was unable to take a count.

The announcement was a setback for the group of strippers who belong to the Actors’ Equity Assn. wanted to join, a centuries-old union representing actors and stage managers on Broadway and at venues like the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. The effort represents a move by an established union to bring historically marginalized workers into the fold of organized labor.

The director of the Los Angeles Region 31 Office of the Board of Directors must decide whether to open and count the 16 contested ballots. A postal ballot was not contested and one ballot was declared invalid.

The board did not disclose the vote of the only uncontested ballot to protect the privacy of the person who cast the vote, NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado said in a statement.

The NLRB regional director could also order a hearing to determine the eligibility of the 16 people who cast the contested ballots to vote in the election.

A lawyer representing Star Garden said the club argues that dancers who submitted ballots are not employed by the company and therefore are not eligible to vote.

“These individuals have never been employees of Star Garden since our client purchased the company in October 2021,” said John Linker of Akerman, the law firm representing Star Garden, in an email.

Actors’ Equity Assn. President Kate Shindle said Monday that the Star Garden’s owners continue to deny that dancers have ever worked at the Star Garden.

One argument Star Garden could pursue is that dancers weren’t hired as employees but leased the space under contract, Shindle said. But the union “is confident that these (dancers) are employees,” Shindle said.

“It’s disappointing. It’s a delaying tactic,” Shindle said. “We believe these challenges will be dismissed and we will move on.”

Shindle and several Star Garden dancers, who have been protesting outside the club for months, gathered at the North Hollywood offices of Actors’ Equity on Monday afternoon to hear the results of the election.

“We knew this was coming from these employers,” said a dancer, who goes by the stage name Velveeta to protect her privacy. There is “a story of strip club owners who want to erase our dignity – erase our existence.”

Although the ballots weren’t announced, “we know how we voted,” Velveeta said. “That’s a win. Period.”

If the dancers’ union vote eventually succeeds, they would be the first strip club dancers in the country to join a guild since 1996.

The strippers’ election comes amid a wave of union efforts at individual workplaces for companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Trader Joe’s — employers that have long opposed organized workers. Broad national union rates have not increased significantly, urging unions to look for other avenues to expand membership.

Most strippers seeking replacements have not worked at the Star Garden since mid-March, when 15 of the club’s 23 dancers raised safety concerns and called for better working conditions. Several dancers were fired and have been picketing outside the bar for months.

The dancers submitted a petition to Star Garden, claiming management had failed to take “basic steps” to protect their safety and privacy. The petition called on Star Garden to enforce safety policies that prevent customers from filming and photographing dancers and lingering after hours. It asked management to provide them with copies of their employment contracts and to stop over-servicing clients they said heavy drinking made them more aggressive.

Dancers filed seven allegations of unfair labor practices against Star Garden, which are being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.

The club’s lawyer said on Monday that “many nasty and untrue allegations have been made against Star Garden. This is a small, family run business that has always strived to do the right thing for its employees and customers, which includes complying with all state and federal labor laws.”

The Actors’ Equity-backed group of protesting Star Garden dancers petitioned August 17 to seek a union election at the federal labor board.

At the September 9-15 NLRB videoconference hearings, Star Garden’s legal counsel spoke out against an election. Star Garden claimed that it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NLRB because it does not generate annual gross revenues of $500,000 or more.

The NLRB disagreed. For the 10-month period ending October 2021, Star Garden had total revenues of $424,587, according to an October filing from the director of NLRB’s Los Angeles Region 31 office. Extrapolated over a 12-month period, the board determined that the club’s gross revenue was approximately $509,504.

The board ruled on October 6 that Star Garden workers are eligible to be represented by the Actors’ Equity Assn. and ordered the election.

Actors’ Equity has had a broader focus on organizing in recent months, trying to gain a foothold with new groups of workers.

In September, a dozen planetarium lecturers who educate visitors to the Griffith Observatory about the night sky petitioned to join Actors’ Equity.

Actors’ Equity leadership has previously said the union is looking into representation of other workers, such as B. Actors helping with medical education, performers at corporate events, and improv artists.

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-11-07/strippers-at-north-hollywood-club-union-election-vote-stalls Union effort by strippers at a North Hollywood club stalls

Alley Einstein

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