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Where did this come from & where is it going?
Too often, dancers aren’t included in creating the laws and policies that affect our jobs. Dancers need the same kinds of protections all workers need, but the stigma surrounding sex work can mean legislation intended to help dancers instead makes our work more dangerous or difficult. Dancers want to protect our jobs and make the industry safe and financially stable for all. It’s vital that dancers are the driving force behind any legislation intended to improve workplace conditions — there should be nothing about us without us.
Since July, dozens of dancers have been organizing with Working WA around issues like workplace safety, financial security, and the stigma against sex work. After dancers spoke at a work session on safety in strip clubs in December, Representative Tina Orwall and Senator Rebecca Saldaña invited us to a meeting in early January to develop legislation. We told them what we needed, and after HB 1756 was developed, we gave testimony on why these concerns matter. Now, the bill has passed the House floor with a near-unanimous vote of 95 to 3 and awaits a hearing in the Senate.
Of course, HB 1756 is just a first step in creating safer workplaces…and it doesn’t address some of the other issues dancers have been organizing around, like lowering house fees, holding managers accountable, and addressing outdated regulations that make working as a dancer more challenging.
Will this affect our status as independent contractors?
No. It was important to us that legislators understood that most dancers value our status as independent contractors, and want to be treated as true independent contractors. Being an independent contractor shouldn’t keep us from getting basic rights at work, and the measures in this bill do not affect our status as contractors.
Will it cost us more money to get our license?
No — the bill doesn’t affect license fees. It creates a statewide training for dancers, and doesn’t change the cost of city-issued licenses, nor does it require an additional license.
Who will run the know-your-rights training for dancers?
The training will be created by Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries, in collaboration with the advisory committee of dancers that the bill sets up. It will be run by the state or a contracting agent — not by club management or owners.
How does the customer blacklist work? Does it create a registry of all customers at the clubs? Who keeps track of the blacklist?
The bill doesn’t require clubs to keep track of customers entering the club. It only requires clubs to keep a list of customers who have been formally accused of violence or harassment, and to keep those customers out of the club for at least three years. The blacklist is required to be shared between clubs with the same ownership, but is not shared publicly or with the state.
All businesses, from drugstores to restaurants to strip clubs, have the ability and the legal right to trespass customers who have behaved inappropriately, whether that means shoplifting or running out on a check or mistreating workers. This bill doesn’t create any sort of database of customers — all it does is require clubs to keep out customers who have harmed workers. This is actually a common practice in the industry in some areas, and clubs in Las Vegas already use a customer blacklist system to protect workers.
Does this bill increase police surveillance of clubs?
No. It was important to dancers to create new safety regulations that would NOT lead to increased vice raids or interaction with police, since police presence can be harmful for many communities, including sex workers, people of color, and people with disabilities. We believe we can improve safety in our community from within the clubs, without escalating the risk of vice raids or police presence in the clubs.
Instead, HB 1756 creates new security measures in the clubs themselves, like panic buttons and the customer blacklist. It does not require dancers to report to police or require any increased police surveillance of clubs. And it creates a know-your-rights training (which will be developed with the help of the dancer advisory committee) that will give dancers more info about what rights we have when it comes to our safety at work.
Is HB 1756 an “anti-trafficking” bill?
No. The harmful rhetoric around “anti-trafficking” has often been used to undermine people engaged in consensual sex work. As dancers, we want to see safety for all sex workers and our organizing is focused on fighting the stigma against sex work as a whole.
Sex workers are advocates for clarity on what “trafficking” really means, so that resources can be used appropriately to help those who are genuinely being trafficked rather than being diverted towards surveilling and criminalizing consensual sex work.
Rather than treating dancers as victims of the sex work industry, this bill puts the power in our hands by making sure we know our rights and creating stronger safety standards in strip clubs.