booths be changed to two-way booths, like the ten other booths at the club. Because the one-ways allowed customers to watch the girls but prevented the girls from seeing them, customers were sneaking in video cameras and filming the girls without their consent, with no control over their image, and certainly without compensation. Management's response to the complaints was simply, "If you don't like it, don't work here."
When girls at the Lusty Lady had had enough of the one-ways, they drew up a petition which 80% of the dancers signed. Before the petition was submitted to management, one of the girls went to an Exotic Dancers' Alliance meeting where she learned that as California at-will employees, strippers could be fired for no reason. The petition would get them nowhere, except out the door. The only way to have protection and make their complaints heard was to unionize.
Implicit in the word "unionize" is the word "unity," and unity among strippers is as rare as health insurance is. Girls come and go all the time. If a stripper leaves her job for a week or gets fired, a new girl replaces her before she can get her street clothes on. Management, on the other hand, has not only unity (club managers are often in cahoots, for instance setting and raising stage fees at the same time), but the power to hire and fire and lots of MONEY. Yet union fights are always thus: a group of little guys rife with divisions versus huge monolithic corporations. David versus Goliath. Against all odds, the Lusty Lady strippers decided to fight.
Live! Nude! Girls! Unite! follows their historical fight, well-documenting their trials and, finally, triumphs. In the end, the girls won and became members of Service Employees International Union Local 790. With the union behind them, Lusty Lady employees now have job security, fair wages based on seniority ($25/ hour is the average), paid sick days, paid vacation time, and lots of union perks like free counseling sessions, free meeting places, free fax and photo copying privileges, and discounts for Costco, travel, cars, and mortgages. Query herself has been much in demand, and she flies around on her own dollar to help with union fights.
Unfortunately, the ending isn't as happy as it could be. The owners of the Lusty Lady are selling their club. It will remain a strip club, but the girls who fought so hard will be back at square one because with new owners come new regulations,
and many club owners in San Francisco have learned from the Lusty's mistakes and have covered their bases so girls don't have much of a legal leg to stand on. Unless, of course, our national government acknowledges what strippers already know: sex work is WORK. What many girls don't know and the message that Query is trying so hard to spread is that workers in America are automatically entitled to certain rights. Query laments, "It's fun making history, but I don't want to become an anomaly. [Strippers] need national status as employees."
The stereotypical bundles of money strippers are thought to earn have become a thing of the past. Stage fees are rising astronomically. In San Francisco, they went from $40 a night to $200 and $300 a night in one week, turning dance clubs very quickly into brothels where only the truly desperate would work. Meanwhile, conditions everywhere are rapidly deteriorating. What management seems to be overlooking is that their short-term thinking is the kiss of death for the entire sex industry. The conservative political climate nowadays needs very little prompting to shut down clubs everywhere. The ever-worsening market is bad not only for dancers, but for the industry as a whole. Supergrrrrl Julia Query hopes that Live! Nude! Girls! Unite! might change a few things by inspiring sex industry workers around the globe (things are tough all over) to give unity a chance and to fight for employee status. It'll be more than worth it in the long run.
* Production on Live! Nude! Girls! Unite! is almost complete. Money is needed to complete the editing, on-lining, to buy music rights and archival footage rights, and to pay comic artist Isis Rodriguez to draw segments with lawyers, etc., who did not agree to be photographed. Donations are welcomed. Contact Exotic Dancers Alliance (E.D.A. #415-995-4745. is their rad website).
* A promotional trailer for Live! Nude! Girls! Unite! has already been cut and various broadcasters (including PBS) are interested. Query's goal is to have the film fit into a TV hour (56 minutes 20 seconds) so that it can be broadcasted on TV and viewed by as wide an audience as possible. Educational distribution is assured.