Did Sodom and Gomorrah Have a Stripper's Union? Portland's Asking...

YouTube / KGW

For strippers at Portland’s Magic Tavern, the workplace problems were simply too much to bear. The collection of exotic dancers wanted respect and for someone — finally — to fix that wobbly stripper pole. This week, after months of unmet demands, the striking strippers voted to unionize, the second such union in the nation.

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Portland’s stripper union would seem to complete its doom loop-ian navel-gazing finish.

YouTube / KGW

It should be said that Oregon is home to the most strip clubs and adult shops per capita than anywhere else in the country. Portland eclipses even Las Vegas for its number of strip clubs, 53. Vegas has only 42. Anyway, chalk up Portland’s we’re number one! stripper club status to Oregon’s free speech law, which is more comprehensive than the U.S. Constitution’s. This elastic law has resulted in live sex acts being accorded the same respect as political speech under state law. Most keen and not-so-keen political observers would agree there’s good reason for that.

Magic Tavern is located in a more industrial area of Northwest Portland, near what remains of actual warehouses that haven’t been turned into lofts by planners, and also truckers, who are still allowed to convey containers full of goods to and from ships and trains. A few years ago I walked into a venerable, old-timey, warehouse bar in the general area and was worried I’d get tossed out by longshoremen. So to say this area is somewhat gritty is apt in my humble opinion.

Since April, dancers have picketed outside the club carrying signs that read “Strippers need safety now” and “Unionized strippers have pride.”

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One striking stripper, “Bishop,” told KGW News that whenever one of the dancers complained about safety issues — the wobbly pole, the smell of a possible gas leak, uneven dance floor, and needing escorts to their cars after their shift — they were fired.

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“It’s constant unsafe work conditions,” Bishop told KGW. “We felt that as sex workers, strippers, that we deserve safe working conditions just like anybody else.”

The body mod, “alternative” exotic dancer, said, “There wasn’t really any security. The person who was doing security was also bartending and working in the kitchen.”

Of course, Portland being the lawless city that it is, there are many unsafe areas for all kinds of people. And — fun fact — the city’s under no obligation to keep you safe. Ask anyone who’s tried to sue the city for allowing Antifa and BLM to stop traffic at gunpoint and beat citizens if you doubt me. But that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, back to safe strippers.

Strippers spoke to “Willamette Week” in July about the strike, saying they were “fighting for basic safety and respect in the workplace, just like any other industry expects.” Over the summer, 33 dancers, who were ostensibly independent contractors, complained. Half that number, 16, voted to unionize.

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The union, however, says the dancers weren’t contractors because they didn’t decide their shifts, rates, or clients. Clients?

Actors’ Equity sent out a press release with quotes from the thrilled new union members.

“Watching the pile of yes votes get bigger and bigger was incredible,” said Poppy, one of the newly unionized strippers. (We refer to all strippers by their stage names to protect their safety.) “It was truly a physical representation of all of our hard work. I won’t ever forget it!”

“Hearing all of the yes votes (and zero no’s) as we won our election made me feel so incredibly proud of my fellow union strippers, and so incredibly hopeful for the future of this industry,” said Nyx, another of the Magic Tavern dancers. “It’s surreal that strippers are finally getting a seat at the bargaining table, and we are so excited to negotiate our first contract in order to return to work in a safer and more equitable environment.”

Regardless, now they consider themselves to be “proud union strippers,” albeit union strippers who don’t have a job at the Magic Tavern any longer.


The club has moved on, hiring new dancers to “climb that allegedly unsafe pole,” intoned a local reporter. The owner told a reporter that it would be considered harassment if any of the unionized strippers came into his establishment.

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As my friend over at Oregon Catalyst rued, “For such an exploitative industry these women need all the protection they can get… [Young people] can’t afford to live here. Portland’s liberal paradise is hell for young men and women trying to survive.” He continued, “Portland is among the highest income taxed areas in the nation. Among the #1 jobs where people escape paying some of these taxes are stripper joints. Rarely will you find another business where customers walk in and drop large sums of cash directly to employees.”

He has a point.

Oh, and I looked up to see whether Sodom or Gomorrah had stripper unions. They didn’t — at least before God destroyed them, I mean.

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