Sex worker union organising: an important new book

August 8, 2012 at 2:47 am (Jackie Mcdonough, sex workers, unions, women, workers)

An Agency of their Own: sex worker union organising by Professor Gregor Gall of the University of Hartfordshire.

The term ‘sex workers’ is a generic one covering all those who sell sexual services, comprising prostitutes, exotic dancers, porn actors and sex chat line workers.

This book provides the first global survey and analysis of the various attempts to unionise sex workers. As the back cover [slightly adapted by JM] states:

“Sex workers joining unions? You’re kidding, right?”

But, as the book shows, there have been a surprising number of attempts to do just that in many countries, whether that be sex workers creating their own unions or joining existing ones.

That sex workers have established various forms of union representation has been no mean feat. Generating effective collective representation has been even more difficult.

The response from sex industry owners and operators has varied from murder to intimidation to dismissal to paternalism. As well as this, hostility from sections of the left and the established union movement have had to be faced as well.

An Agency of their Own pulls no punches in assessing the successes and failures of sex worker organising. But it does show that where there’s a will, a way can often be found too. And this points to the most appropriate form of unionisation – occupational labour unions – for sex workers in their quest for control over their working lives.

H-t: Bruce

A previous Shiraz piece on the same topic, here.


  1. Sainsbury's So Organic range Crunchy Peanut Butter - a bit salty but at least it is sugar free. 6/10 over all rating said,

    Jim, why do you pretend to be ‘Jackie’ and ‘johnny’ and ‘charlie’. I really don’t get this weird pseudonym shit.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    In the immortal words of the young Louis Armstrong (when taken to task by the boss of the record company he was contracted to, for making a record with a different company): “I wasn’t me. And it won’t happen again.”

    Anyway: you have quite a few different names, don’t you, Mr Peanut Butter?

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