After I left Portland, I worked at a couple of Deja Vu and VCG clubs. The strip club world outside of Oregon can seem daunting and fancy to an Oregon stripper, but don’t be intimidated by the contracts.
Because Deja Vu and VCG are both wicked corporations that have already been sued for employee status, one part of their contract is a three-page document titled “Business Status Selection By Entertainer.” It gives the option of employee status or independent contractor. When the hiring manager has a dancer sign the contract, he will tell the dancer she has the option to pick employee status if she wants, but he will tell her how if she does pick that one, she will not be able to pick her own shifts. The difference is explained on the contract in a way that makes “independent contractor” the only desirable selection, because that is the one that will make money and have night shifts. I don’t actually want to be an independent contractor, but these corporate contracts make it so undesirable to be an employee that I have no option if I want to make any money.
I showed this portion of the contract to a lawyer and asked him if I was still able to sue for employee status, even though I signed this document stating that I wanted to be an independent contractor. I was relieved and happy to hear him non-nonchalantly and confidently explain to me that this contract doesn’t mean much, and that I can’t just be coerced into signing away my employee rights in such a way. I asked him why they even have this portion of the contract, if it doesn’t carry much weight in court. He said,
“They think they’re being cute by appearing to comply with the law.”
If you have ever worked at at Deja Vu or VCG club over the past few years, you have signed this contract and probably been coerced into selecting the “independent contractor” status. Don’t be intimidated by it or think that it will prevent you from getting your back wages or any other title VII protections. It is such a relief to know that this portion of the contract isn’t as important as I thought it was.
Deja Vu and VCG, shame on you for making this stupid part of the contract that doesn’t carry weight in court, but appears to comply with the law. You want to make dancers lose their confidence and not want to talk to the labor commission or a lawyer, don’t you? You want to be able to say in the court room,
“See, she signed a contract saying she wanted to be an independent contractor, her signature is right there.”
You won’t win though.
When getting a job at a chain club, the managers don’t readily hand these contracts out to the dancers. I have to get pushy after signing the contract, and sometimes I have to ask repeatedly for a copy of them. These clubs know that strippers are talking to lawyers, and they don’t want strippers to even look at what they are signing.
It is okay and normal to be afraid of management, of losing your shifts or job if you ask for copies of what you are signing. I am afraid of them too, but together we can get through this, fellow strippers. We have to do it, because we have to beat them. We have to get our rights and protect ourselves, for the next generation and for all women who are exploited by these evil entities.