Update: after some powerful floor comments from legislators on the importance of listening to dancers, our stripper safety & security bill passed the State House at about 6:30pm by a vote of 95-3! On to the Senate!
It might very well be a first in Washington state legislative history — a bill affecting people who work at strip clubs that was actually initiated by people who work at strip clubs. Now that bill, HB 1756, has advanced to to the floor of the State House.
Dancers at strip clubs have organized with Working Washington to drive the development of this bill, which addresses several critical safety and security issues at strip clubs in our state. It was unanimously voted out of the House Labor Committee on February 18th, was pulled from Rules yesterday and now awaits action on the House floor.
HB 1756 would:
Create Know Your Rights trainings for all dancers at strip clubs
Ensure clubs provide panic buttons
Require clubs to maintain a customer blacklist to bar entry of people who have been violent
Establish an advisory committee of dancers to work with L&I on implementation, and make further recommendations.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
ELIZA dances at a club owned by Deja Vu, which owns most of the clubs in Washington state: “I have been sexually assaulted at work several times recently. An unfortunate reality of my job is the high risk of sexual assault. I have been assaulted both in private lap dances and while on stage, with varying responses from management every time. Sometimes the customer who assaulted me is asked to leave. One time I was threatened with suspension after I reported an assault to management.”
AMBER has been a dancer for 13 years. “We’re just doing our jobs and trying to make a living for ourselves and our families. We shouldn’t have to deal with assault on a regular basis because of insufficient security measures. Strippers are workers and we deserve the same safety and security measures that other kinds of workers enjoy.”
AMANDA has been dancing in Seattle for 5 years. “A friend of mine was raped at work one day and went to the manager. Less than a month later this customer was seen back inside the club. When customers know they can get back into a club mere weeks after such a horrific incident, all of our safety as dancers is at risk. Now that customer knows he can get away with it, and what’s to stop him from doing it again? We need a system to blacklist customers that actually works, no matter who is at the door letting people in.”
SUSAN is a dancer at Showgirls in Seattle: “I have witnessed managers interacting with dancers, yelling, micro-managing and treating dancers like they are employees and like they ‘own’ us. It’s important for us to have health and safety be a focus inside the club — this includes having working bathrooms available, running water, and dressing rooms that are private and heated.”
DANI dances at Dreamgirls in SoDo. “When the clubs are very busy and there are many people inside the building it can become frenzied and awareness and attention to safety sometimes are overlooked. When staff is too preoccupied, private rooms especially are left very vulnerable. I think emergency buttons strategically placed in the private rooms as well around the club would be one way to deal with that issue.”
ARIANNA has danced at numerous clubs around the country, including Seattle. “Currently, there are some clubs in Seattle where certain customers that come are known to be physically abusive, and management knows and allows it. Rape and abuse at the workplace are unacceptable. Period. Customers that break consent boundaries or are violent at the club must be blacklisted from all clubs, because the current situation is basically clubs here condoning workplace assault.”
HB 1756 is sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall (D - Des Moines). Companion bill SB 5724 is sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D - Seattle).
“These workers have courageously made their voices heard on how to address safety issues in their industry. They are telling the Legislature that things aren’t working for them,” said Rep. Orwall. “We must address their concerns and ensure that every worker in our state feels safe and protected.”
“I prioritize the dignity and safety of workers in all industries, so when adult entertainers testified about the dangers they face at work, I asked them how we could support them," explained Sen. Saldaña. "HB1756/SB 5724 would introduce reforms that allow the entertainers to work with industry and state agencies to improve their workplace safety, so they can earn a living.”