MPLS Sex Workers Ordinance: City Council Meeting
The public gallery for Minneapolis’ Public Health, Environment, Civil Rights, and Engagement Committee meeting on August 12th was standing room only as the committee voted on an ordinance protecting the rights of sex workers in the city. The new ordinance — based on research conducted by the city, state university, and the Minneapolis branch of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) — seeks to adress long standing issues for those working in Minneapolis’ strip clubs and adult entertainment industry.
Results pulled from dozens of survey respondents and interviews with sex workers in Minneapolis showed alarming issues with safety concerns and wage theft in various different forms. The ordinance, an amendment to chapter 267 of Minneapolis’ license and business regulations, would add various protections for sex workers, ranging from prohibiting the practice of managers taking tips from dancers and other contracted employees, to regulating the safety of stages and other areas in venues.
More than 20 community members spoke in support of the ordinance. Some cited past instances of harassment or unsafe behavior in the workplace, while others spoke to the unfair practice of being expected to tip managers out of their own earnings at the end of the night. A few even spoke to practices of being fired or blacklisted for not tipping management well enough, or for asking to see their contract with the venue.
While the vast majority of testimony at the public hearing was in support of the ordinance, a few community members expressed concerns that the new regulations would disrupt their business or put undue restrictions on a system they saw as already working well. The main concerns expressed focused on the placement of security cameras, access to the footage they record, and a concern with not being able to choose to tip management where the workers saw fit. In response to concerns about video camera placement and who might have access to the video recordings, Council Member Gordon expressed interest in reviewing the text to make sure protections around the recordings were clear and appropriate.
Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins briefly interrupted testimony before departing the meeting to express her support for the measure, expressing gratitude for the effort of the community members who came forward to conduct the research and inform the opinion of the City Council on how to form the new ordinance.
Council member and committee chair Phillipe Cunningham, before calling the vote, paused to also express gratitude and to state for the record that “sex work is work.” With the passage of this ordinance out of committee, it is now referred to the full city council to be voted on. The City Council’s next full meeting is on Friday, August 23rd.