Two years since a general strike among strippers in Portland, Oregon, prompted nearly 30 clubs to adopt worker-protecting measures, sex workers in the region are still organizing to secure better living and working conditions, while their movement has gained steam nationwide and internationally.
Strippers and other sex workers told Insider they still face sexual harassment and assault at work, by both management and customers of clubs, and conditions have been more challenging since the pandemic made owners more desperate for business. Despite some progress, Black dancers reported hearing racist remarks and facing discrimination at work.
Portland is home to the most strip clubs per capita in the US, with a unique culture and economy that relies on club tourism. In summer 2020, more than 100 dancers protested for better working conditions and nearly 30 strip clubs – facing the financial pressure of the pandemic as well as missing dancers – ultimately agreed to undergo anti-racism training, listening sessions, and hire more dancers of color.
“We’ve shifted our focus from dealing with the clubs directly to dealing with people’s personal everyday safety and security, to put them in a spot where they feel okay telling their boss to fuck off for a week,” Cat Hollis, organizer of the 2020 Portland Stripper Strike, told Insider.
“And it’s really hard to do that when you’re a person of color who’s scraping by and in a town that’s meant to chew you up and spit you out.”