Oregon

IWW

Together we can be the ones doing the shakedown. (photo courtesy of Tobias Higbie, from Industrial Pioneer, Februrary 1924)

I’m currently in the beginning stages of suing local Portland strip club Casa Diablo. So of course when last fall the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Social Workers hired lobbyists from lobbying firm Pac/West to find out what protections strippers need and to craft a bill that offers these protections, I was very interested. But by the second meeting it was clear that as far as knowing strippers’ rights was concerned, both groups were starting from a blank slate.

To clear the matter up, I talked via e-mail to Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, a lawyer from the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, an Oregon organization that represents workers in wage claims, does education and outreach about wage theft, and works on other ways to promote human and labor rights. This fall, Spencer-Scheurich represented a dancer in a lawsuit against Portland club Rose City Strip, which won in arbitration. She’s also done two presentations on the legal rights of strippers for SWOP-PDX.

Red: In most of the country, strippers are working thinking they’re independent contractors.  But are they really?  We’re winning these lawsuits for employee status across the country—Rick’s, Sapphire, Spearmint Rhino, Rose City—what are the indicators of independent contractors status?

Corinna Spencer-Scheurich: Those are a lot of big questions so let me see if I can break it down.  Many workers (including dancers) are treated as independent contractors, when they are actually employees. This happens in a lot of industries.

Red: Like FedEx drivers it turns out! And Uber drivers.

Spencer-Scheurich:  Exactly.  So this is a big problem overall.  It is especially rampant in the exotic dancing industry. Clearly, there are independent contractors who are dancers. The clear cases are where people are headliners or traveling acts, etc. Where they are their own business entity separate from the club. But, there are many more dancers who are employees. And those are the cases that you are seeing dancers bring across the country.

Red:  So to really be an independent contractors would you have to be registered or licensed as your own business?

Spencer-Scheurich: That would be one hallmark of an independent contractor. Another might be that the dancers could actually negotiate their contracts (instead of everyone [being] subject to the same rules).

Red:  So being able to change prices for dances, or [deciding] when they show up to work and leave?

Spencer-Scheurich: Right, the less control the club has over the dancer, the less likely the dancer is going to be an employee. So, you are more likely to be an employee if you are subject to fines, can’t set your own schedule, have to dress a certain way, can’t control how you are paid, etc. No particular factor determines whether you are an employee or [an] independent contractor. Courts just look at the whole picture. One big piece of the whole picture is whether the dancing is an integral part of the club’s business. As we know, strip clubs need strippers.

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(Via Kitty Stryker’s Twitter feed)

 

Rashida Jones replied (respectfully!) to Kitty Stryker‘s post earlier this week on Tits and Sass, and the two engaged in brief dialogue.

Thailand is amping up arrests of sex workers in an attempt to appear to be compliant with US regulations on trafficking.

SWOP-Seattle has written an open letter to lawmakers, asking them to stop bills that would enact the End Demand model in Seattle. You can sign the letter here.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have developed software that supposedly mines escort ads for information that can suggest the worker is being trafficked:

Traffic Jam gives police a rapid way to sort sex ads, spotting indirect language that may suggest sex trafficking, or grouping ads with similar language that may have been written by the same person.

A trafficking sting last weekend in Illinois resulted in the arrest of nearly 600 clients and 23 “so-called traffickers.” Given the ever-growing breadth of what that word is coming to encompass, one must wonder: were they pimps, boyfriends, coworkers sharing a space, or family members living off a sex worker’s income? Money and effort well spent?

No. And there is no rise in sex trafficking during sporting events, even Polaris and the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women agrees.   This myth conflates sex workers with trafficking victims and encourages serious misuse of funds and time, like the Cook County trafficking sting in Illinois last weekend noted above.

For the first time in the 102 year history of the Alaskan Legislature, there’s an actual advocate for sex workers present: Tits and Sass contributor and longtime activist Terra Burns is in Juneau, educating the legislators on the effects of their laws on real live women.

“They really target things that people in the sex industry do to increase their own safety,” Burns said. “Things like working indoors or working together or even buying condoms for each other.”

She adds that Alaska’s well-intended legislation has unintended consequences.

“I think it shows they are more likely to victimize workers themselves than they are to protect the workers,” she said.

Despite ostensibly having heard or at least read what Terra has to say, Berta Gardner, the bill’s sponsor, says

“My bill does not affect sex workers — it affects victims of sex trafficking,” says Gardner. “It doesn’t touch sex workers who are voluntary sex workers in any way, shape, or form.”

And Terra is using social media to raise money for her efforts! The ability of sex workers’ to use social media will never not be news, apparently.

Also?  Strippers age. Mic follows the true life stories of real women who get older, and how they deal with it.

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(Screenshot of Association of Club Executives newsletter.)

Mayang Prasetyo, a trans woman sex worker, was killed by her boyfriend in Australia (trigger warning: article describes a brutal, perverse murder).  The Courier Mail used some unconscionably unfeeling headlines in relating the murder, and is being called on it.

Oregon lobbyists are working with strippers and social workers to come up with legislation that will offer protections to strippers, reinforcing their labor rights given that, in Oregon as in so many other places, strippers are illegally classified as independent contractors. Mary Emily O’Hara notes:

Though the panel won’t finalize the bill until later in the year, everyone seemed to agree on one thing: if you’re going to work as a stripper, some sort of basic education that clarifies rules around touching, employee status, and other workplace protections is desperately needed.

The Association of Club Executives was way less than thrilled by O’Hara’s article, as you can see from the screen shot above, taken from their newsletter. “Empowerment Enterprises”! That’s some beautiful cheek.

The Cambodian government is also proposing to enforce the labor rights of workers in entertainment venues, including sex workers.

A recent study of sex workers over 40 in India found their circumstances to be very distressed, often exacerbated by the Devadesi system.

Another sex worker is on reality tv: Former stripper Courtney Lapresi is on Master Chef, and the response to this from contestants and critics has been even more negative than Irish response to sex worker Kate McGrew on Connected. Naysayers theorize that Lapresi might exchange sexual favors in exchange for winning. As Esmerelda Murray reports, Lapresi herself is framing stripping as an embarrassing and regrettable decision she made while she was broke.  What’s embarrassing and regrettable is that, after making it on to a cooking show, she felt she had anything in her past to apologize for. Badly done, Master Chef.

Several cases of male violence after rejection made the news this week, only one involving a sex worker (progress?): An English sex worker was attacked on the outskirts of Manchester after attempting to keep walking and ignore a man who wanted her attention.

A days-long trafficking investigation/sting across Canada, which interviewed over 300 sex workers, resulted in 9 arrests, although police in Edmonton, for example insist that they got a very guarded feel from many of the women.  You don’t say.

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What's got two thumbs and 93 unregulated strip clubs? This state!

What’s got two thumbs and 93 unregulated strip clubs? This state!

You can’t just take at face value the unofficial slogans of the Portland Chamber of Commerce. “There are more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country,” “You’re never more than fifteen minutes by foot from a microbrewery,” and “We do too have a professional sports team in one of the major leagues!” That first statement, especially, is one that gets thrown around a lot. A lot a lot, by people who’ve never set foot in a club and yet find it one of the charming defining characteristics of the Rose City. Portland has a strip club culture like nowhere else, complete with its own magazine, celebrities, and scandals.

This week, a curious reader wrote into the city’s Pulitzer-winning alternative paper, Willamette Week, to ask if this is actually true. It is. If, like me, you took issue last summer with Tampa’s claim to this title in every article about the RNC, you’ll be please to see that the WW writer calculated a 1:9,578 ratio for Portland and 1:10,813 for Tampa. That’s a close enough margin to where the two cities could probably trade places on the list depending on the fortunes of a few clubs. It’s unquestionable, though, that Portland is the single easiest place in the U.S. to open a strip club, and that’s what lies at the bottom (lol) of its saturated nudie-bar market. [READ MORE]

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The Lucky Devil dressing room

In the city that has so many sexually oriented businesses that it’s known as “Pornland, Whoregon,” we asked a handful of dancers what they’d like to strive for in 2013. To find an upcycled brass pole for the house? To save up for that tattoo of a zombie bacon cupcake with a mustache?

It turns out that the stripsters of Portland want the same things that strippers everywhere want: to drink less soda and tell more lies. You’re welcome to share your own work and/or personal resolutions in the comments section. 

“I want to be more positive and spend more time appreciating what life has given me.” —Oasis, Mystic

“I will publish my first book and be on a cover of a tattoo magazine!” —Elle, Lucky Devil

“This year I think I’d like to start an intense savings plan, commit to a more healthy lifestyle, and take a tour of the east coast—visit all the historical sites and whatnot.” —Juniper, Lucky Devil

“I’m going to give myself a breast self-exam once a month and walk my dog more.” —Caprice, Golden Dragon

“I’m going to keep putting cash before ass (but hopefully get some action sometime before 2014), travel dance, finish my stripper comic, and get into grad school.” —Red, Casa Diablo

“I’d like to quite drinking soda… not the most exciting but that’s it.” —Gabriela, Lucky Devil

“First is taking more time to let my creative side run wild and second, I am going to snail mail five handwritten, heartfelt letters to people who positively affect my life.” —Holladay, Pirate’s Cove

“[Mine are] to read all my favorite classics again, to be more consistent with practicing yoga, and to have more eye contact with customers once my clothes come off on stage.” —Natalia, Dolphin II

“I’m not going to give out as much personal info at work and lie more.” —Holland, Exotica International

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