A Collaboration Between SWOP-Minneapolis, Minnesota State University, & Sex Workers Outreach Project – USA

After learning about possible new ordinances affecting strip clubs, Andi Seymour, Jayne Swift, and Ramona Falls (SWOP-Minneapolis) partnered with Eric Sprankle, Machensey Shelgren, and Alex Twohy (Minnesota State University) and Katie Bloomquist (Vice President of Sex Workers Outreach Project – USA) to conduct a needs assessment of current workers in the local stripping industry. The goal was to ensure workers and the only local sex worker rights organization were included in the process of revising local ordinances regulating the stripping industry.

The Study
The study was funded by Third Wave Fund, Urgent Action Fund, and Minnesota State University, and was approved by the IRB at Minnesota State University in January 2018. Survey data collection and interviews were conducted between February and May, and participants were recruited through personal networks, visits to local strip clubs to inform dancers of the project, and social media (with a focus on forums frequented by national and local sex workers). 60 dancers completed the study’s survey, and of those, 31 were interviewed.

Results & Recommendations
This study recommends the following, as possible steps that the Minneapolis City Council could take to improve labor rights and workplace conditions in the local stripping industry:

Physical Safety, Cleanliness, And Health:
While 77% of the sample indicated feeling safe from violence and harassment from customers, 40% indicated they have been hurt at work from physical structures (e.g., splinters on stages). Furthermore, over half (56%) of participants reported concerns with cleanliness. Issues with the stage areas and dressing rooms were the most commonly reported workplace health concerns.

  • Management is responsible for maintaining safe stage, floor areas, and dressing rooms that are free from splinters, glass and other debris, and uneven carpet
  • Hired cleaning services that clean all areas of the workplace, including dressing rooms, on a daily basis. This includes making rubbing alcohol and wipes for stage areas readily available
  • Security escorts to cars

Pay structure:
The large majority (65%) of the sample reported being required to tip management, and 71% of the sample disagree with policies requiring splitting tips with other employees.

  • Eliminate tipping of managers and other salaried staff
  • Consistent and uniform house fees, fines, and expectations of tipping non-salaried staff clearly outlined in contract

The language and policies used in contracts were unclear for 21% of the sample. Likely due to the lack of clarity in contracts, especially surrounding termination policies, 39% of participants worried about job security most or all of the time. Many reported not receiving contracts at all.

  • Workers must be provided with a hard copy of a clearly written contract that outlines rights as independent contractors, anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies, procedures and reasons for termination, and be provided of club and local government employees who deal with contract grievances

Discrimination and favoritism:
The majority (63%) of participants reported seeing or experiencing discrimination, and 66% reported management engaging in favoritism most or all of the time.

  • Information about how to report racial discrimination without fear of retribution
  • Management and support staff undergo training on racial bias and sensitivity and sexual harassment

The high sample size in our study is a strong testament to having sex workers recruit and collect data from our own communities. We believe this is the best way to collect data that is accurate, representative, and reflective of the needs of the community, as participants engage with their peers in much more holistic way (compared to the ways in which sex workers engage with outsiders and/or those who claim to be “experts”).

If the city council adopts our recommendations, Minneapolis would be a rare example of how city governments can help promote labor rights for those working in the sex industry.

To support our work, look for updates on social media and share it using #RealStripperReport

@SWOPMinneapolis |
@jamswift13 |
@DrSprankle |
@k_bloomquist |