Sex Work really is Work, apparently
Strippers in the UK are looking to improve their working conditions through unionization. This move would expand the number of countries in the world which have a union for those in the sex trade. Last year, Spain's Labor Ministry registered OTRAS, the Organización de Trabajadoras Sexuales and just last month Scotland's GMB (kinda like the US's AFL-CIO) launched a sex worker branch.
But unions for sex workers have been long-standing in countries with long histories of organized labor, such as AMMAR in Argentina, or the Karnataka Sex Workers Union in India. In the United States, strip clubs have unionized, with the most famous being the Lusty Lady's Peep Show, a process which was documented in the 2000 film Live Nude Girls Unite!
And in a perfect synergy, Boston Review published a section from Molly Smith and Juno Mac's Revolting Prostitutes on the problem with sex work: capitalism. (Don't forget to buy Revolting Prostitutes on Verso - cause yes, fuck Amazon, but also Verso has an amazing selection of lefty books and have published authors such as Melissa Gira Grant and Arundhati Roy.)
It's just that we don't have a great definition of labor and work anymore
But the challenges that dancers, and sex workers more broadly, face in accessing labor rights are not unique. Issues such as being a freelancer, labor concerns which overlap with criminalization and working in an informal job without codified labor rights are becoming more widespread in a changing economy. A recent California lawsuit took up one of the main issues in a host of different industries: Are dancers considered independent contractors or employees? While independent contractors are supposed to have more flexibility in their work (no set hours, work from where you want), they also pay all their own state/federal taxes and are not able to access things like discrimination protections. A recent court ruling in CA found that dancers are employees, not private contractors, but there has been a split over whether or not this is a good thing.
Speaking of polls.
India may be the world's largest democracy, but the upcoming election is showing gaps in participation. Sex workers are feeling long-ignored by their electeds, and are looking to return the favor, voting "None of the Above (NOTA)" in the upcoming elections. As the article describes, not only do sex workers face representatives who have yet to listen to their needs, some workers lack the required documentation to even have the opportunity to vote. Similarly disenfranchised, trans folks in the country are facing a host of systemic barriers to participating in the upcoming election.
In our version of democracy, Stacey Abrams became the latest maybe-candidate to talk about sex work, citing the need for safety for everyone – including, but not only victims of trafficking. She then made a comment about other countries and some states making progress which... lets just hope it's a call for information about why End Demand is bad, and why decrim is the path forward.
And, in the fight for Decrim...
Activists in Nigeria are pushing for decriminalization of low level offenses, including sex work and loitering, while activists in Nevada were able to kill a bill banning all prostitution (including brothels) in Nevada (sadly, the bill died along side a ban on the state's use of the death penalty).
But other places in the country were not so thoughtful about their approach to the sex trade. Montana wants to increase regulations on the state's 20 massage parlors, Davenport, Iowa shut down six massage parlors in response to a new city ordinance, Milwaukee approved john shaming and increasing a minimum fine by $2,000 over the objections of Red Umbrella Justice, and Sacramento wants to increase criminalization of the sex trade by targeting landlords.
If you're in Milwaukee and want to share your opposition, April 25 is the next chance:
And of course, the all-too-frequent reminder that Vice Squads regularly violate people's basic human rights in order to manufacture arrests and justify their own existence:
Speaking of things to ruin your mood.
Someone who calls himself Omid is the latest shitbag targeting sex workers online to remove accounts from places like Instagram to "wage a broader campaign against porn." This is why people need productive hobbies.
But enough of that.
For those with some creativity to contribute, Stella is looking for a new interpretation of their iconic logo:
And, to end on a reminder that sex workers are part of a long, complex history, here's a delightful story about Vancouver's legendary Madame Kiyoko Tanaka-Goto, and an interview with @whoresofyore curator, Kate Lister.
Back to the grind.