In many communities across North America, while massage work is a legal profession, massage workers–and Asian migrant workers in particular–are none-the-less stigmatized and criminalized. Massage workers are often targeted by law enforcement for anti-sex work raids and stings, which puts their lives and livelihoods in direct danger while also contributing to an environment of precarity, feeding into harmful stereotypes, and directly violating the bodily autonomy of the workers.
Through massage worker outreach and organizing, presenters have responded to the needs of massage workers through community organizing. With their groundbreaking trans-national, multi-lingual, worker-centered outreach, the featured organizers have proven that bringing workers together to talk about collective needs, and figuring out how to meet those needs through a combination of program development, fundraising, political advocacy, community building and mutual aid can make a difference in the lives of workers.
The worker-centered organizing of Red Canary Song, Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network, and Massage Parlor Outreach Project has been incredibly impactful in the policy sphere, resulting in impactful coalition-building, policy proposals, and political advocacy, including by working together to introduce the Massage Licensing Decriminalization Act in the New York State Legislature in 2022. Recently, Butterfly has been extremely vocal in pushing for the full decriminalization of sex work with the Canadian Sex Work Law Reform Alliance (including by supporting the alliance’s constitutional challenge to criminalization), and Red Canary Song helped decriminalize ‘loitering with intent to commit prostitution’ in New York state in their work as part of DecrimNY.
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