Stuff You Should Know: Sex Workers’ Unions

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

Labor unions have been in the spotlight the last couple of years. With the auto bailouts saving the UAW, the Wisconsin worker uprising, Wal-Mart walkouts happening, and the NFL referee lockout showing how bad scab labor is, unions are more active and alive than any time in recent memory.

While you might think of burly steelworkers or middle-aged government bureaucrats when you think of unions, we at the Smoking Jacket are here to show you the sexy side of the labor movement.

1. The Exotic Dancers Union (SEIU Local 790)

SEIU Local 790 is a typical union, except that includes one thing special: The first unionized strip club in the nation. The Lusty Lady was a strip club where the girls felt disrespected by management and were afraid patrons were filming them while they worked. In 1996 they approached the SEIU and in April 1997 voted themselves in as The Exotic Dancers Union. The documentary “Live Nude Girls Unite” covers the union drive

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

The Lusty Lady change hands in 2003. The owners saw declining profits and were set to close. The girls did the next step: They became their own bosses. They formed a workers cooperative and now the Lusty Lady is owned and operated by the very girls that make it worth going to.

2. Erotic Services Providers Union

The Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU) is a San Francisco labor union started in 2004 to help organize women in the sex trade industry. It has pushed for the legalization of the sex trade, as they believe it will allow women to come together and demand better treatment and working conditions.

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

A chicken in every pot and a rich man for a husband!

They’ve organized events such as the Hooker’s Ball with the support of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and have fundraised with the Industrial Workers of the World Union.

3. Sex Professionals of Canada

The Sex Professionals of Canada is a union that has made strides to decriminalize sex work in the country. Its goals are to give labor rights to women in the profession, increase work place safety and to create a “bad client” list.

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

Basically Scott, because Scott’s a dick.

Its most successful action has been challenging sex law in court. In the Bedford, Lebovitch & Scott case the organization got parts of the prostitution law overturned on September 28, 2010, and won on appeal in March 26, 2012. The Canadian Supreme Court has decided to hear the case.

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

Playboy’s Sex Court would be glad to take up the case.

4. The Red Thread (De Rod Draad) Netherlands

The Netherlands are known for their legalized brothels, first available in October 2000. Long before then, there was De Rod Draad (The Red Thread) a group that sought to organize sex workers. In 1991 they first approached the Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging (FNV), the national labor federation. They were refused by the head of the FNV. But the leader died and the new leadership was open to bring The Red Thread into the union.

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

We’d like to hear more about how our union can help you.

Early attempts floundered. The FNV wanted contracts and only workers hired in a employer-employee situation. The Red Thread wanted workers to remain anonymous and self-employed sex workers to be included. The legalization of brothels made organization easier for both the FNV and Red Thread unions, allowing contracts, but costing anonymity.

5. Karnataka Sex Workers Union

The Karnataka Sex Workers Union is an independent trade union of made up of women, men and transgender sex workers in the Indian state of Karnataka. It seeks to legalized the sex trade in conservative India, as well as get health care, opportunities for the children of sex workers to get education and to prevent the trafficking of children.

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

Plus, they’d really like some of those call center jobs to be for sex lines.

The union is for the full legalization and regulation of the industry, feeling strong laws will improve conditions, make the work accepted and allow an end to the trafficking that occurs in the unregulated underworld.

6. Scarlet Alliance/Sex Workers Union (Australia)

The Sex Workers Union of Australia is the labor union underneath the sex workers rights group Scarlet Alliance. Currently unrecognized by the Australian government, it aims to organize sex workers and set better working conditions as well as give Australian sex workers legal rights.

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

As well as forever change the meaning of “I come from the land down under…”

The Scarlett Alliance has protested a Northwestern Territories law requiring prostitutes to register with police to operate legally, which would leave a permanent record of their profession.

They also forced the Salvation Army to apologize for claiming to have saved sex workers by dubious means, while not helping many sex workers who did request assistance.

7. International Union of Sex Workers (United Kingdom)

The International Union of Sex Workers is a United Kingdom sex worker organization. Like the other unions on the list, it seeks to legalize sex work and get sex workers better treatment.

Stuff You Should Know: Sex Worker Unions

God save the Queen!

The union is campaigning to turn London’s Cross Bones Cemetery, a paupers cemetery for prostitutes who were unfit for burial by the church, into a protected memorial for sex workers. Closed in 1853 and rediscovered in 1996, the cemetery has been visited by the Anglican Church and has been considered for preservation by London’s mayor.

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