North Hollywood club strippers illegally fired, NLRB says

Star Garden, a topless dive bar in North Hollywood, violated labor laws by firing three strippers and locking out 15 others for raising concerns about their health and safety, said the National Labor Relations Board.

Star Garden and its employees made headlines when dancers began picketing outside the club and dissuading patrons from entering by describing conditions they deemed unsafe. Eight dancers told The Times in interviews that management told security not to intervene when patrons threatened the dancers’ safety.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by an NLRB regional office in Los Angeles, finds merit in allegations by a group of strippers who protested outside Star Garden for months after being barred from work in late February.

The NLRB is seeking to have the dancers reinstated at a March hearing before an administrative law judge. The labor commission is also asking that the dancers be reimbursed for the damages suffered.

“The Star Garden dancers have concertedly raised concerns about their health and safety, and the employer has unlawfully retaliated against them for doing so,” the NLRB spokeswoman said. Kayla Blado, in an email.

Vahe Khojayan, an attorney representing Star Garden, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The NLRB’s decision bodes well for an effort by dancers to unionize that has stalled because Star Garden owners argue that dancers pushing for a union were not actually employed by the company.

The Star Garden strippers filed a petition for a union election in August, seeking to be represented by Actors’ Equity Assn., an established union that represents actors and stage managers.

The NLRB counted the ballots in the historic union election last month, with disappointing results. The majority of the ballots had to be spoiled, as they had been disputed by the owners of Star Garden, and therefore the vote count could not be completed.

Mori Rubin, director of the NLRB’s Area 31 office overseeing the case, could decide to combine the two issues — disputed ballots and alleged illegal retaliation — into one hearing, said NLRB spokesman Blado.

The strippers’ union effort comes amid a reinvigorated labor movement at companies that have long shunned organized labor, including Starbucks and Amazon, though national unionization rates have not increased significantly. Unions such as Actor’s Equity are pursuing previously untapped groups of workers to expand their membership.

If the dancers’ union vote is ultimately successful, they would be the first strip club dancers in the country to join a guild since 1996.

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