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"Strippers’ Bill of Rights" Secured by Washington Dancers

Anonymous dancer in Seattle area clubs, poses for a portrait at her apartment, Feb. 1, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Thanks to the incredible work of stripper-led advocacy group, Strippers are Workers, a revolutionary Strippers' Bill of Rights has been passed in Washington state. It was signed by Governor Jay Inslee on March 25th and includes the most comprehensive statewide rights and protections in the nation.

Strippers' Bill of Rights legislative bill (SB 6105 / HB 2306) includes

  • Legalization of alcohol service in clubs

  • Eliminate back rent practices (indebting dancers to clubs)

  • Regulate high dancer house fees 

  • Mandatory training for club employees

  • Minimum security staffing requirements in clubs

  • Anti-discrimination protections

  • Independent Contractor Affirmative Protections

  • Panic Button requirements

  • Customer Black Lists requirements

SWOP Behind Bars spoke with Madison Zack-Wu, campaign manager for SAW recently. SAW has been organizing for the past 6 years, introducing significant change to the Washington adult entertainment industry. In 2018, SAW and Working Washington unanimously passed the first ever Washington dancer-led legislation, HB 1756, which among many demands included panic button installation, customer blacklists, Know Your Rights training, and an adult entertainment advisory committee.

“The most important part of this policy is that it was created by dancers, for ourselves in our own working conditions.”
Madison Zack-Wu for NY Times

SAW is led and operated by dancers for dancers, who organize through campaign strategy meetings, creating solutions for shared experiences, training, connecting dancers with resources, and continuing to develop dancer-led policy and educational materials. They seek to fight systemic oppression and deconstruct harmful stereotypes while working towards liberation.

While coming to a consensus regarding the policy topics proved to be challenging, the group was thrilled to have Strippers' Bill of Rights pass with no changes. Fleshing out the language was a collaborative effort. Topics were determined by dancers who, among other demands, needed better working conditions, an end to unfair restrictions on dancers, and lower club fees.

Madison, campaign manager for SAW, said that a hurdle faced throughout the campaign included producing educational materials for potential supporters. The broad stigmatizing societal view of stripping had to be confronted in order to reaffirm sex work as work. Archaic anti-sex work narratives, such as end demand centric rhetoric, had to be deconstructed and illustrated as being in opposition to what sex worker liberation movements push towards- all while reiterating that sex workers are the experts of their own experiences.

Organizing was also a difficulty. Washington has a very small workforce of 11 clubs. Things are rough in WA clubs, and many dancers are simply trying to survive and make a living, which creates difficulties for organizing regularly and planning for meetings. It's terrifying to know as soon as you start working that you've broken the law, because every bit of stripping has been policed. If anything untoward happens, you can't ask for help because the reality will be held over your head.

Madison indicated that Washington is a good illustration for the national sex worker rights movement of what industries and workplaces become like after end demand- decades of dehumanizing, marginalizing regulations- as well as what happens when the community comes together and fights against harmful legislation.

Through community power and determination, dancers still represented themselves on every level, amplified their own voices despite all odds, and demanded the change they wanted and deserved. Strippers are Workers should be celebrated for all they have accomplished, and supported through their continued legislative and community work.

How can you help Strippers are Workers (Washington State)?

  • Visit their website to stay up to date on their movement work.

  • Follow SAW on social media. (Instagram // Twitter)

  • Donate to SAW. Your donation helps fund the campaign and all the work that goes with it: contracting dancers as staff, program materials, research, pop-education, member training, creating dancer-resources, and more.

  • Become a member. If you are a former or current dancer who has danced in Washington State, sign up to receive updates about the campaign, and learn how to join the fight.

  • Sign a public open letter of support for SAW. Show the public and lawmakers that you support the cause to make dancing safe, positive, and lucrative for dancers. Free from harm, exploitation, and stigma perpetuated by the community, lawmakers, and industry stakeholders alike.

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