The closing of the Lusty Lady is a huge loss both to the local and international erotic service provider communities.
It was the only hourly waged and unionized sex worker business in the America.
While the rest of the strip clubs in San Francisco or the state for that matter, have sustained class action lawsuits on behalf the dancers for wage and hour violations, the Lusty managed to pay a legal wage. This guaranteed wage afforded many new comers to the sex industry to explore their sexual expression for pay in a supportive environment.
That’s something the other strip clubs cannot say. All the other clubs in San Francisco have instituted the old pay to work schemes where dancers have to figure out daily if not hourly how they are going to come up with enough money to pay the management for the right to come back to work the next day.
I’ve worked with gals over the years who were sexually and economically harassed by the strip club management. One young gal I worked with at an underground brothel said she had been pulled off stage after her set by her manager and dragged into the backroom and forced to perform oral sex on him in exchange for not paying the illegal stage fee.
Its really important for new comers in our industry to get support, coaching and mentorship to explore sex for pay on our own terms and the Lusty was one of those few places that offered that low impact entry level sex work. You could get that kind of help from one of the few underground brothel or dungeons that still dot the bay area if you are lucky but they rarely take on the totally inexperienced like the Lustie did. Likewise, the Lusty provide long term employment for experienced workers as well.
Despite the theater’s one of kind unique sexual experience, the closing always seems to be imminent with the yearly negotiations over the rent with the landlord. Too, the internet and the surrounding competition from other clubs couldn’t be converted into any financial benefit for them. I remember Daisy Anarchy trying to mobilize the Lusties to help unionize the surrounding clubs. Clearly it was in their own best interests to bring up the work conditions in the nearby businesses since many of the Lusties worked in these other clubs already or would be working in them eventually. But their focus always seemed to be on their own internal struggles.
For all of the obstacles, the Lusty had major political clout and earned media of which they hardly ever spend or used. I remember crashing one of their membership meetings to get their support for Prop K. I couldn’t figure out if they were more shocked that Prop K had made it to the ballot or that I called for the yays and the nays myself to get their endorsement! It was really hard to get any conversations going with them about how much support and help they had to exchange at their fingertips. It seems they never knew the powers our city commissioners, politicos or their own union had to offer them. I always wondered if they could have taken steps to have their location designated as a historical landmark which would have opened up much needed dispensation but I could never get anyone at the theater to return my calls.
Many labor groups like the Coalition for Union Women, have supported our erotic service providers organizing with resolutions and political access. The Lusties were in the unique position to call upon the means for real impact organizing resources for the whole sex industry. Their union SEIU 1021, a public sector union, was the one of the most powerful unions as unions go in the city and the region.
The closing of the Lusty holds lessons for the labor movement and the rest of the nouveau fast moving sex industry; if you don’t take steps to organize yourself and those around you and share the love as we say, then you are surely to loose what you have.
The larger labor movement has been in steep decline with the local, national and international public sector workers under attack by these same land barons extremist capitalist types who now own our elected national government which no longer serves us.
Despite these recent losses and even though the sex industry is comprised of illegally working independent contractors, we can still come together to organize and collectively bargain new social contracts for ourselves, former sex workers and those that will come after us. There are still resources. We just have to show up and do our part. We know that by doing so all sex trade workers and everyone else on the planet will be lifted up. Now is the time to come together no matter what form of sex work you do and get into mutual aid.
Your Sister in Sexual Solidarity,
SOIBHAN BROOKS AND GRED WALSTON – INTERVIEW BY MAXINE DOOGAN (courtesy KPFA Women’s Magazine): Former “Lusty Lady” Soibhan Brooks and attorney Greg Walston are interviewed on Martin Luther King Day 2006 about racism as a factor in the sex industry during the time that the Lusty Ladies Peepshow unionized and how this discrimination is being fought through the court system. Part 1