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Washington state passes ‘strippers’ bill of rights’ law to create safer conditions for adult entertainers

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Legislation in Washington state known as the strippers’ bill of rights, which advocates say includes the most comprehensive statewide protections in the nation, was signed into law on Monday.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the measure, which creates safer working conditions for people in the adult entertainment industry and makes it possible for the clubs to sell alcohol.

“Strippers are workers, and they should be given the same rights and protections as any other labor force,” bill sponsor Sen. Rebecca Saldaña of Seattle, said in a news release. “If they are employed at a legal establishment in Washington, they deserve the safeguards that every worker is entitled to, including protection from exploitation, trafficking, and abuse.”

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The new law requires training for employees in establishments to prevent sexual harassment, identify and report human trafficking, de-escalate conflict and provide first aid. It also mandates security workers on site, keypad codes on dressing rooms and panic buttons in places where entertainers may be alone with customers.

Most dancers in the state are independent contractors who are paid by customers and then must pay club fees every shift, Zack-Wu said. The new law limits the fees owners can charge, capping them at $150 or 30% of the amount dancers make during their shift — whichever is less. It also prohibits late fees and other charges related to unpaid balances.

The state Department of Labor and Industries will draft the new rules and guidelines for making the changes to workplace safety standards included in the law by early next year.

The new law also makes it possible for adult entertainment businesses to obtain liquor licenses. The law ties the liquor licenses to compliance with the new safety regulations.

Strippers Bill of Rights Law Signed

Legislation in Washington state known as the strippers’ bill of rights was signed into law on Monday, March 25.  The law aims to create safer working conditions for people in the adult entertainment industry. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Strippers Are Workers, a dancer-led organization in the state since 2018, advocated for the regulations — and alcohol sales.

The organization’s efforts began in response to wide regulation gaps for people performing at the 11 adult entertainment clubs across the state, according to Madison Zack-Wu, the group’s campaign manager.

But there were also concerns that adding the protections without adding revenue from alcohol sales could lead some clubs to close.

“We don’t want clubs to shut down now or in the future because that will just put everyone out of work and then put them in even riskier or more dire situations,” she said previously.

State Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesperson Brian Smith told The News Tribune in Tacoma that it could take over a year to get the liquor license process in place for the clubs.

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Only one other state has added worker protections for adult entertainers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2019, Illinois started requiring that adult entertainment establishments, along with other businesses, have a written sexual harassment policy.

There have also been other efforts — including at a bar in Los Angeles and a strip club in Portland, Oregon, where dancers voted to unionize. And, the Nevada Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that dancers at one Las Vegas club are employees, and are entitled to minimum wage and other protections.

“It is crucial that we confront the stigma surrounding adult entertainment and recognize the humanity of those involved in the industry,” Saldaña said.

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