Strippers in New York City are on strike. As The Washington Post reports, many exotic dancers are in conflict with the clubs they work at over allegations of racism and lost wages. The strippers, who are mostly black, allege that bartenders and so-called Instagram "models," who are often white or Latina, are taking their wages.
In the past, strippers performed on stage and in the VIP rooms while bartenders, who were fully dressed, were pouring drinks. The dancers were the ones making money on the floor. With the influx of social media, clubs began to hire Instagram “models” with significant social media followings who call themselves “startenders.” They appear in clubs primarily in Queens and Brooklyn and have reaped the same benefits as the strippers.
A stripper named Panama shared her experiences. She's seen a "drastic difference in dancers’ wages" with these women competing for the same money. She used to make thousands in a night but now averages $400 a night. “No dancer in New York City is making $1,000 a night anymore.”
Gizelle Marie, a dancer who is one of the stripper strike organizers, shares that the bartenders often impede strippers from making money. “The [New York City] bartenders tell the customers not to tip us. They block us from the customers while we dance or they are sweeping our money off the stage while we dance." Adding to the conflict, the strippers allege that the bartenders and Instagram models often wear clothing resembling strippers. Most customers can’t tell bartenders apart from strippers. Says Marie, “the club promoters and owners encourage the behavior.”
Panama explains how racism adds to the issue. “The dancers used to be the most respected in the club, and now it’s like the dancers are at the bottom of the barrel. And the dark-skinned dancers are all the way at the bottom of the barrel.”
As for the strike's terms, the strippers want their house fees reduced and they want bartenders to pay house fees (which they currently do not have). Black dancers also want more of an opportunity to be hired as bartenders and they want bartenders to stop stealing their money.