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As a reference book “An agency of Their Own” explains and records the development of sex worker unions around the world. Unionisation has, as the book notes, given authority and legitimacy to sex workers, both in their battle to be recognised as workers and in their demands for human rights.
The author recognises in his book however, that although unionisation gives legitimacy to the voices of sex workers that authorities find hard to ignore, the selling of unionisation to a group of workers as stigmatised and criminalised as sex workers, is not an easy task. It takes time and persistence to sell unionisation, not only to sex workers but to other unions, who are naturally cautions of accepting into their midst a group of workers that some, consider to be morally and ethically, controversial.
Selling unionisation to sex workers, as the author explains, has often relied upon the cooperation of sex worker managements, ie brothel owners and escort agents and strip/erotic dance establishments owners and managers. The Co operation of sympathetic managements has offered unioniser’s access to sex workers, who, especially in the west, usually work as self employed and use third parties for discretion and safety. Conventional methods of recruitment have often not proven to be the best way to reach workers who often work in secret and often in semi legal or even illegal environments. Adapting recruitment policies therefore, has been a learning curve, not only for unions but for sex workers themselves.
Where the book is less clear, is in discussing the current situation of sex worker unions. Notably, for example, the attempted radicalisation of the GMB sex worker branch by some members which has led to often bitter infighting and to accusations of bullying. It is a situation that waits to be resolved.
This book is definitely however a must read for sex worker activists and for others interested in the history of unionisation and the positive affect that unionisation has had in mobilising and creating a voice for marginalised groups within society.
You can purchase the book“HERE”
Editor of http://www.harlotsparlour.com.