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Strippers protesting at North Hollywood bar were unlawfully fired, NLRB says

Star Garden, a North Hollywood topless dive bar, violated labor law when it fired three strippers and locked out 15 others for raising concerns about their health and safety, the National Labor Relations Board said.

Star Garden and its workers grabbed headlines when dancers began picketing outside the club and dissuading customers from entering by describing conditions they said were unsafe. Eight dancers told The Times in interviews that management told security not to interfere when customers threatened dancers’ safety.

The complaint, issued Tuesday by an NLRB regional office in Los Angeles, finds merit to allegations by a group of strippers who protested outside Star Garden for months after they were barred from working in late February.

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

“The Star Garden dancers concertedly raised concerns about their health and safety, and the employer unlawfully retaliated against them because they did so,” NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado said in an email.

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

A group of dancers filed a petition for a union election through the Actors’ Equity Assn.

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

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 tallied ballots in the historic union election last month, with anticlimactic results. The majority of the ballots had to be set aside, as they had been challenged by Star Garden owners, and so the vote count could not be completed.

Mori Rubin, director of the NLRB Region 31 office overseeing the case, may decide to combine the two issues — the challenged ballots and the alleged unlawful retaliation — into one hearing, Blado, the NLRB spokesperson, said.

The strippers’ union effort comes amid an invigorated labor movement at companies that have long staved off organized labor, including Starbucks and Amazon, although broad national unionization rates haven’t risen significantly. Unions such as Actor’s Equity are pursuing previously untapped groups of workers to expand membership.

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

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