Strippers Are Employees, Too

Just because a profession isn't respected by all doesn't mean employees should be subjected to sub-par health and safety standards. ("Seattle – Deja Vu 01" by Joe Mabel, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

I follow a stripper on Instagram, @Cardi_BB. She’s crass, rude, swears like a sailor, is as far from politically correct as is possible for anyone to be and she’s absolutely hilarious. She makes me laugh, makes me think and occasionally, she makes me sad.

She’s not a victim, whining about her self-imposed plight, but occasionally, she’ll drop a nugget in one of her many videos that makes me think about stereotypes, authenticity, and the unfair way many of us assume that all of one thing is all one way.

For example, all strippers are out to steal your man. I actually don’t know if they are or not — I seriously doubt it — but I know they work for their money just like every other person in a workplace, and they pay taxes — whether they do that correctly is none of my business — as such, they should be entitled to the same minimum expectations of any other workplace: safety, for instance.

Some veteran strippers in Oregon are working with state legislators to make that happen. Some have unionized, filed complaints with state regulators or sued. And they’re making headway.

Elle Stanger, one stripper active in the movement for better working conditions, said in a Yahoo article that “it doesn’t matter if you work in education, clergy, any kind of blue collar work … we just want to get these workplaces up to a minimum safety standard at least.”

Stanger, who’s worked at the Lucky Devil Lounge in Portland for five years, said her club is not one of the dilapidated establishments being targeted, but other strippers aren’t so fortunate. They may have to deal with unsafe wiring from jerry-rigged sound systems, broken glass on stages or rundown, poorly maintained buildings.

Lobbyists and strippers are fighting for all strip clubs to require health and safety standards such as sufficient security, structurally sound poles and clean stages. These requests seem perfectly reasonable. Poles and stages are the tools of the trade, after all, no different than computers and phones in an office.

The problem is many strippers are independent contractors, not employees, which means clubs don’t have to provide health insurance or pay payroll taxes, and dancers can’t be managed like other employees. Strippers may not know their rights as independent contractors.

It doesn’t seem like they’re asking for much. It actually seems like they’re asking for the basics, things much of the work world takes for granted. I hope the strippers get what they want. They have to work like anybody else. Personal opinions about the right or wrong of their profession should not prohibit their ability to work smart and safe.