American sex workers can now legally unionize

Brandi Campbell is a sex worker, specifically a stripper. Since 2016, she's also run a blog for Stripper Labor Rights, that includes resources for other sex workers who want to protect themselves from exploitative labor issues.

In 2018, Campbell had been working at the Centerfold Club in Columbus, Ohio. Although she was technically an independent contractor, the management still got pissed when they discovered her side gig, and subsequently fired her for allegedly violating "no touching" laws.

This, the courts later recognized, was a retaliatory action, and thus a discriminatory firing. And as of July 31, the National Labor Relations Board has upheld this ruling, ensuring that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) also applies to strippers. Whether they're on staff, or independent contractors, strippers still have a legal right to talk about and undertake collective bargaining actions, and the management can't legally bust those unionizing efforts.

From Vice:

Campbell has been pushing for labor organizing from within clubs for years—between 2015 and 2017, she filed unfair labor practice charges and complaints against clubs she worked for across several states, including Nevada, multiple clubs in Minnesota, and Wisconsin, "alleging that they discriminated/retaliated against her for engaging in statutorily protected activities and deprived dancers of their statutory rights by misclassifying them as independent contractors," according to the 2019 ruling by NLRB Administrative Law Judge Andrew Gollin.

Much of the ruling hinges on the requirements clubs set out for strippers as crossing from reasonable expectations for an independent contractor into demands set for an employee: At Centerfold, Gollin wrote in the 2019 ruling, this ranged from the hiring process where dancers have to audition, and follow a detailed series of rules and regulations to keep their "entertainer lease" agreement intact.


As part of the upheld ruling, the NLRB ordered Centerfold to post a notice in its establishment that employees are now free to "form, join or assist a union, choose representatives to bargain with us on your behalf, act together with other employees for your benefit and protection, [and] choose not to engage in any of these protected activities."

National Labor Board Rules in Favor of Strippers Who Want to Unionize [Samantha Cole / Vice]

Stripper Labor Rights [Archive]

Image: Rick Hall / Flickr (CC 2.0)