Strippers are going to get workplace protections in Washington.
On Wednesday, HB 1756 passed through the Senate unanimously. The bill will implement consistent contracts for adult entertainers in clubs, mandatory workplace trainings and education for strippers, place panic buttons within any club rooms where strippers are alone with customers, create a customer blacklist, and establish an adult entertainer advisory committee.
A stripper who asked to go by Susan for fear of retaliation from her employer said all the dancers who have been organizing behind this bill are overjoyed with it passing.
"I definitely feel like the most important part, which has been our intention the entire time, is 'nothing about us without us,'" Susan told The Stranger. "It’s all dancers who have organized behind this and it's really centered in protecting our health and safety in the workplace; we don’t want laws created without our input."
This bill was made by strippers for strippers to make changes to flawed work environments. Currently, strippers don't receive any formal workplace training in Washington state. Part of the bill that will make the biggest difference, especially for young women just entering the industry, is the mandatory training. It will include education on the rights and responsibilities of entertainers especially in regards to working as an employee or, more often than not, an independent contractor. It covers "reporting injuries, including sexual and physical abuse and sexual harassment, risks of human trafficking, financial aspects of the entertainer profession, and resources for assistance."
"Going into this industry, there wasn’t a lot of information," Susan said. She wished there was more guidance on the money management side of things. "It's like, okay, you’re getting this business license and you’re running your own business, really. They don’t have a lot of information about taxes—that’s what I want new dancers to know. Knowing your rights, there’s a lot of corruption around house fees here and the wool gets pulled over your eyes a lot. When you know your rights you’re allowed to advocate for yourself."
Additionally, the bill will mandate that clubs keep track of any patrons who are violent or abusive. It expresses that a club "must make every effort to obtain the customer's name" but, if that doesn't work out, the club has to record a description of the person. They'll keep a record of that for five years and ban the patron for three years.
"There’s not a lot of protection for us when a customer comes in and assaults or harasses us," Susan said. "There are no measures that are taken to further protect us. Where we're coming from is: clubs have a blacklist for dancers, why can’t they have a blacklist for customers?"
When a dancer is fired, clubs put their name on a sort of database that blacklists them from working at any other club within the chain—that's a problem when there's a strip club monopoly like there is in Seattle.
Ultimately, this bill is the first step.
"Our intention is we want to have an advisory committee that’s made up of mostly dancers to further organize with our advocacy in the workplace," Susan said. That advisory committee will be set up under the bill.
Currently, the bill has been sent back to the House to get approval on a Senate amendment. But, after that, it will be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk for him to sign.