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Thread: Sex work is now a union issue

  1. #1
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    Talking Sex work is now a union issue

    Full text http://cupe.ca/updir/FactSheet-SexWork.doc

    Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

    There are good reasons why CUPE is involved in getting the concerns of sex workers addressed.

    CUPE is committed to defending the rights of workers. Our union is particularly active in defending the rights of workers to be treated equally. We know that discrimination divides workers and weakens our solidarity. The criminalization of sex work is a form of discrimination. It says to people that sex workers have no rights and that it is their own fault if they are victims of harassment and violence. The discrimination can take many forms. For example,

    · They have no recourse if a client refuses to pay
    · They can be fired from other work if they “come out” or are “outed” as a sex worker
    · They can be denied access to shelters for victims of violence, or given access only if they commit to leave sex work
    · They can lose custody of their children
    · They can be denied police protection
    · They can be targeted by community campaigns to “clean up” the neighbourhood
    · They are denied the protection and rights set out in labour or employment laws

    CUPE policy to oppose discrimination faced by transgender and transsexual (trans) members also comes into play when it comes to sex work. For some trans people, sex work is the only viable form of employment. Some trans people work in the sex trade because of the discrimination they encounter in other forms of employment. Many trans people have trouble getting hired and are fired because of their gender identity and expression.

    Sex work is also a CUPE issue because CUPE social service workers provide frontline support services to sex workers, particularly in large urban centres. For example, CUPE members employed with the 519 Community Centre in Toronto provide legal services, outreach, referrals, and crisis assistance to sex workers. And sex work experience is a bona fide criterion for employment in some CUPE organized workplaces.

    What is CUPE saying about sex work?

    CUPE policy commits the union to work toward legislative reforms that would help end the discrimination experienced by sex workers.

    At the 2001 CUPE National Convention, members passed a resolution, which calls on CUPE to take the lead, within the Canadian Labour Congress, for the decriminalization of sex work in Canada.
    CUPE is not the only labour organization to adopt policy in support of sex workers’ rights. In 2002, the Canadian Labour Congress, which represents 2.5 million workers represented by many different unions, called on the entire labour movement to work towards supportive measures for sex trade workers.

    What does the decriminalization of prostitution mean?

    Prostitution, or the sale of sexual services between consenting adults, is not illegal in Canada.

    However, certain activities associated with prostitution are illegal. Under the Criminal Code, the bawdy-house provision, the communicating provision, and the procuring provision make it very difficult to engage in prostitution without breaking the law. The result is that many sex workers face criminal consequences for engaging in what is an otherwise legal activity.

    The Criminal Code actually prevents prostitutes from organizing their own businesses and working together for mutual protection. For example, the bawdy-house laws make it illegal to own, operate, and work in a brothel. Persons convicted of a bawdy-house offence can face up to two years in prison. As a result, many prostitutes choose to work on the streets in order to avoid time in prison. But as one sex worker told the Pivot Legal Society Sex Work Subcommittee, working on the street is a lot more dangerous than working in a dwelling:

    Working indoors is better than standing on the street. I have felt that my life was in danger three times in the past year. Each time that happened, I was standing on the street. I have never felt that my life was in danger when I have had dates in my own residence.

    Criminalization does not stop people from working as sex workers. All it does is reinforce prejudice against sex workers and force them into unsafe working conditions. Criminalization contributes to a perception of sex workers as non-persons, undeserving of the protections of law and society. A prime example of the consequences is the disappearance and murders of numerous sex workers from Vancouver’s downtown eastside.

    This is why sex workers’ rights advocates call for the decriminalization of all aspects of sex work. Decriminalization means the repeal and/or the reform of laws that differentiate sex workers from other workers and that regulate the sex lives of consenting adults.

    Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Legalization means the creation of a new set of laws regulating how sex workers live and work. In legalized systems, some workers are issued licenses that permit them to work and the police mandate is “prostitution control.” Laws enforced by the police and social service agencies that prescribe health checks and the registration of health status, and determine where sex workers can and cannot live and work, violate sex workers’ Charter and labour rights and should be opposed.

    What is CUPE’s Position on Unionizing Sex Workers?

    CUPE takes the position that sex work is a form of work. However, CUPE is not seeking to organize sex workers.

    There are legal impediments to the unionization of sex workers, and prostitutes in particular. For instance, existing labour laws in Canada, with the exception of Quebec, do not provide for the unionization of autonomous or contract workers where there is no clearly defined employer/employee relationship. Also, it is unlikely CUPE could get union certification for workers involved in what is essentially an illegal activity.

    However, CUPE has called upon the Canadian Labour Congress to investigate the possibility of sex workers getting union representation.

    It is only fair that sex workers get the recognition and protection given other workers, including a minimum income, social security, sanitary and healthy workplaces, freedom from discrimination, harassment, violence, and coercion, and the right to union representation.

    What can we do?

    We can support sex workers by helping them fight for their rights as workers.

    Here’s how:

    · Support sex workers in their efforts to be represented
    · Educate members about sex worker issues
    · Lobby for the decriminalization of sex work
    · Support sex workers seeking worker protections
    · Lobby for sex worker protections in labour legislation, human rights codes and hate crime legislation
    · Demand accountability from the justice system for unsolved violent crimes against sex workers
    Annik of Annik & friends
    Http://pages.mlink.net/~annik

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElfGoneBad
    There are three (somewhat) separated powers in any democracy and Unions isn't one of them.
    I agree, unions are evil.
    Keep it Weird!

  3. #3
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    Annik

    Would you and your group consider labour unrest?
    Could you be forced back to work through an injunction???? As you might be considered, in Quebec, as "essential services"!!!!
    Last edited by Lawless; 01-06-2005 at 12:17 PM.

  4. #4
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    Angry

    Let me clarify my previous comment a bit.

    I have no problem with people fighting for their rights but the very concept of Unions makes my blood boil.

    Here is an illustration as to why:

    ''If A is bargaining with B over the sale of his house, and if A were given the privileges of a modern labor union, he would be able (1) to conspire with all other owners of houses not to make any alternative offer to B, using violence or the threat of violence if necessary to prevent them, (2) to deprive B himself of access to any alternative offers, (3) to surround the house of B and cut off all deliveries, including food (except by parcel post), (4) to stop all movement from B's house, so that if he were for instance a doctor he could not sell his services and make a living, and (5) to institute a boycott of B's business. All of these privileges, if he were capable of carrying them out, would no doubt strengthen A's position. But they would not be regarded by anyone as part of "bargaining" - unless A were a labor union.''

    -Forgotten Facts of American Labor History
    by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
    Keep it Weird!

  5. #5
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    Of course CUPE wants to get sex workers in their ranks! It's what, $50-60/month per members? Almost free money! Maybe not much but hey! Better than nothing!

    Changes to the Canadian laws have to be made, that's a given. Sex workers are peoples too and they desserve the protection of the law, not to be discriminated by it.

    Unions, on the other side, would only make a difficult situation worst. How could an union enforce a strike order? How would an union force all sex workers to pay their dues? What kind of help could they provide with whatever little money they'll collect from the few members they'll get? Who's going to decide who they're going to help when? How's is the unionisation process will be implemented? What will be the governing structure?

    I used to be in an union and all they did was protect old lazy farts who had their collective agreement always close at hand so they could justify working as little as possible. These old farts had seniority and could almost not get layed-off or fired for anything beside if somebody proved they did something illegal. Instead, I've seen young peoples, willing and fully qualified, get pushed-out. Peoples who were left were stuck filling-out for both the old farts who stayed and for the younger employees who left. The end result was loss of overall productivity in the company due to burnout, to some good employees leaving for greener pastures, (that's what I did, with a bunch of others) the lower quality of the products caused by the lack of interest and care in the workplace, then more layoffs because customers didn't like the lower quality of what was producted and, finally, a company that had to go on the Canadian equivalent of the American "chapter 11" bankrupty law. All that happened 15 years ago, so it's not the stock market crash who caused it. It happened within 6-7 years of the union being introducted. Business bloomed for about 3 year after the union settled in (until the first agreement renewal came-up) then, work relations deteriorated, quality of the products deteriorated and it went downhill from there.

    I predict same will happen with any "shop" of street workers who will take a union. Workers will become too demanding, some will become disgruntled and will ruin the moral of the others, the quality of service will resent it, customers will find better, cheaper service somewhere else and the place, and workers, will end-up worst than they started.

    Think about it: without an union, no mandatory pay scale. If you are good, you're paid more, if not, you're paid less, the market and yourself dictate how much you're worth. With an union, if you're an employee with skills group A and are in the company since X years, that's where you fall in the salary grid and that's where you'll be, no matter if you're excellent at what you do, simply good or marginal. What count is what's on paper and how long you've been there, unless the boss can prove you are incompetent. At that point, you might be held back in the salary scale but rarely, if ever, will you be brought down. This process of stopping somebody's progression is usually very hard in a normal environment so, imagine as a sex worker where one customer's pleasure might be someone else's nightmare, it could prove to be impossible.

    Again, yes to a reform of the laws but, no to unions.

    That's only my opinion.

  6. #6
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    On a side note, look what over-regulation did to the taxi industry.

    it is not possible for me to privately call a taxi driver with whom I feel I received good service. By law I have to take the next available taxi in the line.

    Can you imagine that with Sps???
    Keep it Weird!

  7. #7
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    I am against unions in general, but the one thing you have to remember is that sex work is not necessarly fun. There is a very ugly side to this that most of us do not see. I suspect that most of us here respect sex workers and there trade. (except for some idiots Eg: the camcorder thread in the massage section. "sorry about that but it had to come out".) Take people who do it by choic truely consent that is one thing which is nice but to have people forced in sex work is another, and believe me there are true horror stories out there. so please be carefull, P.S. PLEASE ENCOURAGE AGENCIES ETC... WHO RESPECT THIER WORKERS.

    So why not work with an union if it can help sex workers situation.
    Just my 2 cents.

  8. #8
    Legalising the sex trade without the use of unions is the way to go. Take an independant grocery store for instance. he sets up his business, oreders the produce, opens his doors. Customers purchase said produce, grocer orders more. Grocer gets approached by other suppliers, gets better deals passes them off (Or not) to customers. Grocers makes good living hires help, expands, buys new private home, lives well. Sells business and big house, buys smaller house (for cash) vacations in Florida six months of the year.

    Now no where in that absurd story is a union involved or the government except for health inspectors. No body has told him how to run his business if he fails too bad, if he makes it the government reaps in the taxes everybody wins. The grocer, the customer, the landlord, the government have benefitted from his hard work.

    Imagine it was illegal to open a independant grocery store, or corner store or variety store or any kind of store. It would be called the Black Market and that's whats happened to the Sex Trade it's gone under ground. Make it legal to begin with and with the same basic guide lines as a restaurant or titty bar whatever. From there let NON PROFIT organisations like Stella iron out the details into making it safe you and I. The cops should not be involved or any body else. If there's a health issue let the municipality shut it down like they do when a restaurant or landlord hasn't headed the warnings and it's finished.

  9. #9
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    They should go with the "Teamsters"; better services day and night!!!!!!!!

  10. #10
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    Annik --
    Thanks for the information. I hope CUPE is successful.

    For the rest of the whining masses on this thread, let me express my opinions as someone who has spent a lifetime in management -- in both union and non-union environments. Unions become important and even necessary because business (management) is failing. If a business environment is healthy and balanced and the needs of workers are adequately addressed -- there is no oxygen in the workplace to feed a unionization effort. Unionization efforts almost always succeed because they are warranted -- management is exploiting workers.

    If the legal environment was a bit different, if every John were as polite, thoughtful and responsible as 98% of the posters on this Board, then there would be no need for SPs to organize. Alas, it is not so. The legal climate is adversarial, and some customers, agency owners, pimps, drivers, and hanger's-on create conditions that are unsafe and exploitative for women trying to making a living as SPs.

    If you treat SPs with respect and courtesy, deal with reputable agencies and independents in an appropriate manner, and you are interested in a fair transaction -- the existance of the union will have little or no impact on you. If you don't fit this description -- you have cause to worry.

    If unionization raises rates by $10 -- you can always make your own coffee and put it in a travel mug, rather than stop at Tim Hortons. Chances are, you'll save more than $10 per week -- and you probably don't need that donut either.

    Hope everyone can be a little less cranky in 2005.

    -- Hugh

  11. #11
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    The Teamsters could not only provide the menpower, but aslo the needed clients during a strike or lookout!
    And don't forget....travelling is also part of the union!
    You only have to watch for new "stadium contruction" where a lot of cement is being used!!!!

  12. #12
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    It is not only SP's... lap-dancers and strippers (depending on the province)especially need to unite to create better, safer, cleaner working conditions.

    You would not want to see the condition of some of the dressing rooms, if there are any. I was once in a SC where the girls were expected to change/dress in the same bathroom I was using (one intended for the female patrons not workers), a small 2 stall (with broken locks), no toiletpaper bathroom (one of the girls was kind enough to supply me with a baby wipe when I realised that there was no paper...apparently it was the norm there).

    I have heard of places with loose dance poles, and other dangerous stage conditions. Also it seems to be common that the stage and other places where the girls are expected to "crawl around" are often not cleaned properly.

    I have heard of some places where the girls have to pay for the priviledge to work her shift, and pay the door man, and whoever else, with no salary, just tips. That just doesn't make sense in my book.


    Ronnie,
    Naughtylady
    They will forget what you said,
    they will forget what you did,
    but they will never forget the way you made them feel.

  13. #13
    I am certainly not a fan of public sector unions like CUPE, I agree they protect the incompetent and the lazy. However unions are useful in industries where workers are exploited, and the sex industry is one of them. So I too hope the Canadian labour movement as a whole is succesfull in getting prostitution decriminalized. If it means some agencies get unionized and have to raise their rates a bit, so be it, I prefer paying so that the workers get better working conditions than paying so that the agencies can remit their "protection" dues to organized crime (Hell's Angels or whatever).

    Remember that large fortunes were made in the alcohol trade during prohibition. Decriminalization of prostitution (and/or of marijuana) will kill a whole income stream for organized crime, which is a goal in itself.

    My small contribution to this issue is to give most of my business to indies instead of agencies, as I respect their entrepreneurial spirit.

  14. #14
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    Smile

    SAQ is a good example. Union reps inflated worker's heads saying workers were "public workers" working for the government and should be paid as such. Surprise!! They are store employees and they do the same as any grocery store employee do so, why should they make more or have better work condition? Wether they are working for a governement agency or not is irrelevant. What's going on in Ontario or elswere with work conditions of other Liquor Store employees is irrelevant. If Ontario agree in paying more and giving better condition, then great for them but honestly, I don't see why any SAQ/LCBO employee should make more and have better contitions than a Wall Mart employee: they do the same work! If the work condition are so bad at the SAQ, why do employees stay there? It's not that bad, that's why.

    Legalization is the first step, then regulation will get in the picture. Once sex workers can get their basic rights respected, same as any waitress or office secretary, then it might be time to consider an union, if the need is still there. At the moment, sex workers should support Stella and such instead of flirting with "the big ones".

    NaughtyLady:
    If girls work in clubs where it's dirty, unsafe and without changing room, it's their choice. If it's not because somebody is forcing them to work there, then any union won't help, it's the law that can. Even now, it's illegal to force someone to do something they don't want to do when it's dangerous or unhealthy. At the moment, a girl who refuse to work in bad contitions might get threathened but this is where Stella and such can help convince the girls to stop fearing, get together and complain. Is that comparable to an union? Maybe but, it's far from CUPE and would definately serve them better than CUPE or any other big union could ever do.
    (Ok, it might not be that easy, I know...)

    As far as girls having to pay, it's the norm here in the Ottawa area: they get in and, no matter if they make money or not, the DJ fee is an average of $40 per shift, payable before the end of the shift, usually expected within the first 2-3 hours. If they miss paying one day and the DJ like them, they're ok till the next time but must pay what they owe plus the current fee. If the DJ doesn't like th girl and she can't pay, she can't dance there anymore. No base salary, no payroll, the girls must work for all they get. If they make no money, it cost them to work. Crasy but, there's not that many clubs here and they all do it so, if the girls want to work, sadly, they have no choice. Is it a question of union or a problem due to the lack of legistlation?

  15. #15
    I've got to agree with metoo4. If the conditions suck then just quit, but that alone won't help. Somebody will just take your place. Making a complaint to an Organization like "Stella" will give them the meat and potatoes they need to launch formal complaints with the law. In the long run thing like the DJ thing will cease. Unions don't hang around for free. If you think it's expensive now being any kind of SP wait till you have to pay UNION DUES to do exactly what Stella could/can be doing for you now for a donation.

    Where I used to work for a huge corporation, I was non-unionized staff. I and the other 2500 non-unionized staff were the only ones that benefitted from the union. I received all of the same benefits and conditions as the union MEMBERS without the outrageous fees. When the union told them to strike for fifteen weeks, I worked as a SCAB and made tons of money on overtime. Many of THE MEMBERS lost their homes and cars because they couldn't make the monthly payment on their weekly STRIKE PAY of $100.00.

    In the end, they voted to go back to work, not because they got something out of it, but because they couldn't afford to LOSE any more! Nobody suffered but them and the UNION blamed its members for not sticking to their guns. But those who worked for the union directly got their salary and made their house and car payments so it was easy for them to continue the strike.

    Like it has already been mentioned-Legalisation is the key for all of us! We don't like getting busted any more than you do. And many hobbyists have more to lose than a weeks pay when we're trying to explain to the judge with our families present why we got busted with Fifi's lipstick on our shaft!
    Last edited by Triton; 01-14-2005 at 08:28 AM.

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