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  • NY Sex Shop Workers Vote To Unionize For Worker Protections
    Posted On: May 30, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, May 31, 2016

    Last week workers at Babeland in New York City announced that they had voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, becoming the only currently-organized adult sex-toy store in the country.  Katherine Wolf, a Brooklyn Babeland worker who prefers the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’, says the workers chose to organize around a number of major work issues, including job security, consistent scheduling, better communication with management and a safe path to air worker grievances:

    [Katherine Wolf]: “That’s especially true for my co-workers who identify as trans or gender non-conforming received a lot of really challenging issues around communication and proper language.  We get harassment of people who aren’t trans-friendly, who aren’t queer-friendly.  We want stronger policies in place to be able to protect workers.”

    The organizing drive began in December, and Workers voted overwhelmingly, 21 to 4, to join the union. Wolf attributes this to the strength and unity of the workers across Babeland’s three stores and support from the RWDSU, which currently represents 60,000 other workers across the nation:

    [Katherine Wolf]: “They’ve been phenomenal.  They’ve been so supportive and really great.  We’re all stoked to be working with them.  We had really tried, for a very long time, from before I started working there, to air some of the things that were serious grievances in the workplace and tried to talk to folks and change things.  And just nothing moved, therefore we decided to unionize.  They were really caught off guard, and I think that speaks to the strength of our campaign and how determined we are to move into the contract negotiations and get a really strong contract.”

    Wolf says the diverse workforce at their place of work makes the victory particularly significant:

    [Katherine Wolf]: “Because of the nature of our work, there are a lot of people from various marginalized communities who are drawn to work there: transgender and queer-identified people, people who do sex work, people who are from low-income communities, women, people of color.  Kind of the base of workers at Babeland are super-diverse and come from really interesting intersections, and I think that one of the really cool things about organizing Babeland is that we’re bringing a different kind of political analysis to the labor movement around trans-inclusion and what feminism looks like in the year 2016.  That feels really exciting and really significant.”

    Wolf also hopes their labor activism can feed into other related struggles:

    [Katherine Wolf]: “The decriminalization of sex work…I think it could lift up other voices in terms of like what’s happening with trans rights across the country.  So I think because it is at the intersection of all these different things, it’s a really exciting place to be doing labor organizing.”

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