By Noah Wass
“No Justice, No Booty” and “We Won’t Perform w/out Reform” were just a few of the signs seen in a crowd of about a hundred gathered to picket Club 205 and The Venue on SE Stark St. in Portland June 24.
Sometime last week, the sign outside Club 205 briefly read All Lives Matter, as opposed to Black Lives Matter. Even without the sign, Club 205 and The Venue, a nearby strip club have yet to agree to the demands of a growing group of Portland strippers threatening to strike.
PdxStripperstrike is a movement of over 100 Portland strip club dancers demanding an end to racial discrimination in Portland clubs. So far, out of over 30 clubs in Portland, just six have yet to publicly agree to cultural sensitivity training.
An earlier picket scheduled for June 19 at Union Jacks on SE Burnside St., was called off after the owner bowed to public pressure and agreed to their full list of demands.
Back in March, Cat Hollis of the Haymarket Pole Collective, began organizing pdxStripperstrike when a friend and fellow Black Portland dancer took his own life. “It was directly related to stress from trying to live as a Black dancer in this world or a Black anybody,” says Hollis, who first began contacting clubs June 1. Hollis says Giselle Marie, who organized NYStripperstrike in 2017, approved of the name’s use in Portland.
A list of demands submitted to Club 205 asks that “all contractors will receive a copy of their contract at the time of signing.” As independent contractors, all dancers must sign a contract to work at Portland strip clubs. Dancers say they rarely, if ever get copies of their contracts. Nia, who has danced in Portland for four years says she’s never received a copy of a club’s contract.
Striking dancers are demanding that clubs give Black dancers equal opportunity in hiring and scheduling.
“I was the only woman of color at my club and my club has a lot of dancers, we usually have 60-80 dancers on a Friday night,” says Nia, who is Latina and says her lighter skin makes it easier to get shifts. She says clubs often point to women of color like her with lighter skin to show that they hire people of color when really they don’t hire darker-skinned Black dancers. Hollis says that many clubs will only schedule Black dancers on weekdays during the day when business is slowest.
Meanwhile, Hollis says that some club owners defend their hiring practices.
“Black strippers were being told that the reason Portland strip clubs weren’t diverse is that there were no Black dancers.”
PdxStripperstrike is demanding that clubs consider hiring based on local population statistics.
Another picket June 27 at Golden Dragon saw another hundred or so people march from Southeast Portland to downtown. Many local organizations have expressed their solidarity with Portland dancers. Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7901 is the latest to express solidarity, with an Instagram post Saturday, expressing support for the action.