Exotic Dancers Strike At Famous Paris Cabaret

Dita Von Teese, Carmen Electra and Pamela Anderson have all graced the stage of Le Crazy Horse, a 60-year-old Parisian cabaret. Its founder maintained that striptease is an art form, but behind the nightclub's beauty and glamor, its dancers now say, conditions are dismal.

On Tuesday, 17 Le Crazy Horse dancers went on strike to demand a 15 percent increase in their "miserable" wages, reports the French newspaper Le Figaro. According to a spokeswoman for the group, identified only as Suzanne, the dancers work 24 days a month, make less than 2,000 euros (about $2,540) in that time, and do 13 rehearsals or performances a week.

A 15 percent increase, Suzanne said, would be "fair and economically feasible."

On Wednesday, the club was forced to cancel performances for the second day in a row, the first cancellations ever in the club's long history.

Exotic dancers don't often organize, in the U.S. or abroad. In 1997, a group of strippers at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco signed what is believed to be the first union contract in the nation covering workers in the world of erotic entertainment. Many of the peep-show arcade's dancers were upset by the use of one-way glass in booths, which allowed customers to record smutty videos that could be posted online. They joined Local 790 of the Service Employees International Union. The one-way glass was out and a set pay scale, break allowances, raise structure, and job security were in.

It's hard for many adult performers to organize like this, however, because clubs frequently classify them as independent contractors, rather than employees; and independent contractors don't have the same right to organize, or to benefits, and sometimes have to pay for the privilege of dancing in a club.

But lawyers are taking up the cause of exotic dancers across the country, and judges have largely been convinced that the women are illegally misclassified, and are actually employees. So far, adult entertainers have won backpay and damages in at least 10 states.

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