In our print story today about Oregon lawmakers' efforts to rein in lingerie shops (so-called "jack shacks"), we reported on two proposed changes to the state Constitution that would give cities the right to zone for nude entertainment.
In addition, the Oregon House is considering two bills that would clamp down on the exotic-entertainment industry. Unlike the proposed changes to the state Constitution, these laws would not require voter approval before taking effect.
In a recent committee hearing, both bills were characterized by state Sen. Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills) as being aimed at curtailing the adult-entertainment industry.
However, no one in the House seems eager to talk about the bills.
The first, House Bill 3161, would require that owners of establishments providing "live entertainment" be the employers of performers if those performers are required to give up a share of their tips. Currently, most—if not all—strippers in Oregon are considered "free agents." They make no wages. Instead, they work for tips only and are often required to pay a "stage fee" to the house, plus tip out the DJ and staff.
The question of whether strippers should be considered employees is a litigious issue. We've written two stories about Zipporah Foster—a stripper who sued several Portland clubs for back wages, claiming she should have been making minimum wage and not be required to pay fees or tip out. Foster lost her lawsuit against Northeast Portland's Exotica International Club for Men, but she filed a motion to appeal. In arbitration, Safari Showclub in Southeast Portland and Stars Cabaret in Beaverton agreed to pay Foster an undisclosed sum.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, a stripper at Cabaret 2 in Gresham who goes by the stage name Siren told WW she has little desire to become an employee of the club.
"I think it's stupid," Siren said of the bill. "Everybody who gets into this job knows you're gonna be self-employed. If we want a different job, we can get one."
But a stripper at a club in Southeast Portland who wished to remain anonymous said she'd prefer the rights given to an employee. She recently broke her arm and had to strip with a cast on, she said, because she couldn't go without the money.
She said strippers who oppose wages and workers' legal protections are short-sighted.
"They're just thinking McDonald's and minimum wage," she said. "They're not thinking it through."
A second bill, House Bill 3284, would require record-keeping for transactions in which rooms are rented for 24 hours or less. In lingerie shops, models pay the owners a flat fee to use the premises at each shift. The bill says the new records it would require could be inspected by law enforcement or state tax collectors.
Both bills came out of the House Judiciary Committee, but neither bill has any lawmaker's name attached to it. Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), a co-chair of the committee, said he's uncertain who was behind the bills.
A legislative staffer with knowledge of the committee's workings said the bills came out of a legislative work group and suggested we contact Rep. Andy Olson (R-Albany). But Olson's staff so far has declined to schedule an interview on the bills.
"I know he was involved in them, but I do not think he was the driving force," said an email written from Olson's email address.
The bill on record-keeping had a scheduled March 25 hearing canceled—not a hopeful sign for the bill's chances.
The bill making strippers employees was referred to the House Committee on Business and Labor, but no hearing has been scheduled. That committee's co-chairs, Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley) and Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City), did not return phone calls seeking comment.