San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution
Final Report 1996

Prostitution Task Force
Sex Workers' Issues Testimony Meeting-Johanna Breyer

Johanna Breyer

My name is Johanna Breyer. I am a co-founding member of Exotic Dancer's Alliance and the reason that I am here today is to advocate for Exotic Dancers. At this point I see very little difference in what dancers are doing to make money and what prostitutes do. One large difference is that prostitution is illegal and dancing is legal in this city and many other cities across the nation. I would like to address some issues that concern us as dancers. One is that we do not receive wages and we are deemed as independent contractors and there is definitely a conflict with the level of control that management has over dancers and their claim that we are independent contractors. Dawn and I filed with the labor commission over a year ago and we were actually awarded back wages but the management appealed the decision, so currently this case is pending and the issue is still unresolved. So women are continuing to pay to work and management is continuing to profit unfairly off the women who dance.

The other issue that I wanted to present today was sexual harassment and discrimination within the sex industry, especially where exotic dancers are concerned. I was personally sexually harassed for three and a half years while I worked at a certain club in the city and I know that the level of harassment I had to undergo was not as severe as many of the stories I have heard and this bothers me and this bothered me to the extent that I was willing to jeopardize my status as a dancer and go on to work as an activist and this is one of the reasons that I founded this organization. Dawn and I also filed a complaint with DFEH about this issue, and the investigation was absurd. The investigator was completely biased. He made comments like, "What do you expect if you walk around in your underwear?" He went into the club and asked the management, "Have you ever harassed Johanna or harassed Dawn?" This was the extent of his investigation and during this time he also asked four women on site have they ever experienced harassment by the management as well. So clearly this was not an ethical way to conduct an investigation.

As a result the case has been dismissed. It's now to the point where we can bring a class action suit against the management, but it's completely frustrating for me to have to got through these channels when it's quite obvious that a sexual harassment code should be implemented into these clubs. Women here should not have to come forward and file class action complaints. Women should not have to come forward and file with the labor commission to get pay equity, to get bearable working conditions. And as we speak more and more clubs are opening up and the same type of situation is ongoing. Women are still continuing to pay to work. Women are still being harassed by management and the list goes on and on and on. It is not only within the city and county of San Francisco. We've received letters and phone calls from women who work in other cities at other clubs, and what they describe is exactly the types of situations that occurs here in this city. So I am asking that the Task Force on Prostitution consider exotic dancers and consider that there are little differences in what we are doing. When it comes down to it, it's still sexual activity for money. It's still work. It's time. It's your energy. You're working. With this in mind we would like to be included in future projects.

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