And along with health and safety concerns specific to sex work,
the most pressing issues facing sex workers are the same ones facing
increasing numbers of middle and working class people across the U.S.:
a lack of access to affordable housing, health care, labor rights and
other basic needs.
Worker organizing is thwarted by pimps and other business owners who physically and emotionally abuse, and take massive cuts of the revenue. Often a paternalistic model develops where the pimp pays for the prostitute's living expenses (housing, bills, clothes) but passes along no cash, which traps the worker in a power and control tailspin that is difficult to escape. On their own, the sex workers face greater danger of arrest (one worker blamed her arrest on not paying off the right people).
The Lusty Lady, a San Francisco peep club became the world's first (?) unionized, then later worker-owned cooperative sex club after a protracted battle with management, who used pretty common union-busting techniques. The club was immortalized in the truly excellent documentary Live Nude Girls Unite in 2000, and serves as a model for sex worker organizing. The union fought to improve worker conditions and won basics like seniority, medical and sick leave, and more field-specific changes, like the removal of one-way mirrors that enabled customers to photograph the workers without their knowledge.