“Troublemakers” in Tassels and C-Strings: Striptease Dancers and the Union Question in Vancouver, 1965–1980

Authors


  • *I would like to thank research assistants Kim Greenwell, Michelle Swann, Erin Bentley and Geneviève Lapointe, as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Hampton Fund at the University of British Columbia. I am also grateful to narrators who graciously shared their stories, Gillian Creese for generous feedback, and anonymous reviewers for thoughtful insights. This article is part of a book manuscript provisionally titled The Shake, the Rattle, and the Pole: Vancouver's Striptease Past. This manuscript was first submitted in August 2005 and accepted in April 2006. Contact:becki@interchange.ubc.ca.

Abstract

En mettant l'accent sur la ville portuaire de Vancouver en Colombie-Britannique, cet article examine les tentatives des effeuilleuses qui militaient pour la syndicalisation et la négotiation collective durant l'“age d'or” de l'industrie de 1965 à 1980. Des entrevues avec des danseuses retraitées, des propriétaires de clubs et des agents de placement révèlent cinq principales pierres d'achoppement à la création d'un syndicat: a) main-d'ceuvre peu nombreuse et transitoire; b) compétition entre les danseuses en tant qu'entrepreneures indépendantes; c) conditions de travail dans une industrie quasi criminalisée et stigmatisée; d) efforts résolus des propriétaires de clubs et des agents pour contrecarrer l'agitation des travailleuses et pour punir les “meneuses” et e) obstacles a la syndicalisation intrinsèques a la loi provinciale du travail.

Focussing on the port city of Vancouver, British Columbia, this paper examines attempts by striptease dancers to agitate for union membership and collective bargaining during the industry's “golden era” from 1965 to 1980. Interviews with retired dancers, club owners, and booking agents reveal five central stumbling blocks to dancers' union formation: a) the small and transient work force; b) competition among dancers as independent contractors; c) working conditions in a quasi-criminalized, stigmatized business; d) the resolute efforts of club owners and agents to stymie agitation and punish “ringleaders”; and e) barriers to organizing intrinsic to provincial labour law.

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