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. On Tuesday, March 5, HB 1756 passed the State House by a vote of 95-3.
Since July, dozens of dancers have been organizing with Working WA around issues like workplace safety, financial security, and the stigma against sex work. They met with legislators & told them exactly what they needed & gave powerful testimony on why these concerns matter. They did an incredible job of building power and making noise. And they're getting stuff done.
Here's what you need to know:
Last July, dancers from strip clubs in Seattle approached Working WA to talk about some of the issues in their industry. They reached out to their coworkers, and together we organized meetingsto talk about some of the key issues in the industry.
Dancing can be a path to economic mobility for workers in WA.But right now, dancers are facing a predatory business model that strips workers of their rights & fair pay. Dancers have to pay up to $200 a night just to work at the clubs. Their options are limited because of a large corporate chain that controls the majority of clubs in WA. Their health & safety at work are often compromised, and they deal with everything from lack of heat and running water to managers that don't take assault & harassment seriously. And the stigma surrounding sex work means dancers are too often subject to legislation that doesn't truly respond to their needs & often makes doing their job harder and more dangerous.
Dancers started meeting with legislators in December to let them know what was going on and what they needed to see change.
Their conversations with legislators led to the creation of HB 1756, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall & Sen. Rebebecca Saldaña, which:
Provides know-your-rights trainings for all dancers in WA
Requires clubs to put panic buttons in private rooms
Requires clubs to maintain a "blacklist" that keeps customers who have assaulted dancers from re-entering
Creates an advisory committee of dancers to inform the process of implementing these & future policies
Now that HB 1756 has passed the House, it moves on to the Senate for a vote — we'll keep you updated on its progress!
IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
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.”
ANN is a dancer & leader on the campaign: “There is a large amount of stigma and mischaracterization surrounding exotic dancing from some who don’t understand the industry. Well-meaning lawmakers have passed laws such as SESTA/FOSTA that are meant to protect us, but have ultimately caused us and our industry harm because those lawmakers had failed to consult with those of us whom these laws would affect. This is why I am grateful to have the opportunity to support HB 1756, a bill that was crafted as a direct result of outreach and communication between entertainers and legislators.”
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.”
AALIYAH has been a dancer for four years, going on five. “This bill is a jump start to the beginning of making our workspace a safer environment! From personal experience I feel as though this bill will help relieve SOME of our concerns in the strip club. This is an industry that’s very misunderstood and us ladies have worked so hard to get this bill passed.”