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March 05, 2019

WA State Pols Considering Bills to Protect Adult Entertainers

OLYMPIA, WA—In what may be the first such legislation in the nation, the Washington State legislature is considering a pair of bills which would educate and protect adult entertainers (read: strippers) working in adult clubs and cabarets statewide. The bills—House Bill 1756 and Senate Bill 5724—are identical, but while the Senate bill has only just been referred to the Labor & Commerce Committee, the House version has cleared the Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards and is currently undergoing its second reading before the Rules Committee. The bills require all adult entertainers to attend a training course that will inform them, among other things, of their rights and responsibilities whether working as an employee or independent contractor; the process for reporting workplace injuries, including sexual and physical abuse and sexual harassment; the risk of human trafficking; and where they can go for assistance. Dancers will not be able to receive or renew an adult entertainer's license without signing an affidavit affirming that they have taken the training course. In addition to this course, the two bills go much further in their proposals to help protect the dancers. "An adult entertainment establishment must provide a panic button to each entertainer who performs in the establishment, at no cost to the entertainer," states Sec. 2 of each bill. "An entertainer may use the panic button if the entertainer reasonably believes there is an ongoing crime, harassment, or other emergency in the entertainer's presence. The entertainer may cease work and leave the immediate area of perceived danger to await the arrival of assistance." Perhaps even better is Sec. 3 of the bill: "An adult entertainment establishment must record the accusations it receives that a customer has committed an act of violence, including assault, sexual assault, or sexual harassment, towards an entertainer. The establishment must make every effort to obtain the customer's name and if the establishment cannot determine the name, it must record as much identifying information about the customer as is reasonably possible. The establishment must retain a record of the customer's identifying information for at least five years after the most recent accusation. "If an accusation is supported by a statement made under penalty of perjury or other evidence, the adult entertainment establishment must decline to allow the customer to return to the establishment for at least three years after the date of the incident. The establishment must share the information about the customer with other establishments with common ownership and those establishments with common ownership must also decline to allow the customer to enter those establishments for at least three years after the date of the incident. No entertainer may be required to provide such a statement." According to talent agent Sandra McCarthy of OC Modeling, many clubs do have a policy of barring entry to customers who have a history of harrassing dancers and club personnel, but as far as can be determined, no other state has a law on its books mandating that such customers be barred, nor a rule putting the onus on the club owner to keep a record of the details of the harasser—name and/or description—and to pass along that information to other clubs in the same ownership chain. "These workers have courageously made their voices heard on how to address safety issues in their industry. They are telling the Legislature that things aren't working for them," the House bill's sponsor, Rep. Tina Orwall, said in a news release reported by the group We Are Working Washington. "We must address their concerns and ensure that every worker in our state feels safe and protected." "I prioritize the dignity and safety of workers in all industries, so when adult entertainers testified about the dangers they face at work, I asked them how we could support them," added Sen. Rebecca Saldaña. "HB1756/SB 5724 would introduce reforms that allow the entertainers to work with industry and state agencies to improve their workplace safety, so they can earn a living." The news release also included statements from several dancers, each of whom has been the victim of unruly customers. "I have been sexually assaulted at work several times recently," said Eliza, a dancer at a Déjà vu Showgirls location. "An unfortunate reality of my job is the high risk of sexual assault. I have been assaulted both in private lap dances and while on stage, with varying responses from management every time. Sometimes the customer who assaulted me is asked to leave. One time I was threatened with suspension after I reported an assault to management." Déjà vu Showgirls has locations all over Washington State. "A friend of mine was raped at work one day and went to the manager," reported Amanda, who's been a dancer in the Seattle area for five years. "Less than a month later this customer was seen back inside the club. When customers know they can get back into a club mere weeks after such a horrific incident, all of our safety as dancers is at risk. Now that customer knows he can get away with it, and what’s to stop him from doing it again? We need a system to blacklist customers that actually works, no matter who is at the door letting people in." The We Are Working Washington release contains statements from several other dancers, reporting on conditions in their clubs—none of them pretty. Dancers and adult performers who also dance may wish to contact the organization for help in getting such protective legislation passed in other states. They may contact Sage Wilson of Working Washington at [email protected].

 
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