Daily Archives: May 29th, 2013

“An Unlikely Union”

Really interesting and in-depth article by Julie Bindel, examining the machinations of the IUSW, the “International Union of Sex Workers”, which is more accurately describable as a lobby group for pimps. The article covers the founding of the IUSW by academics, how they allow pimps and johns to join, and how some of the few genuine ‘sex workers’ have left in disgust (and one of the pimps left because he didn’t like the idea of his union fees going to the Labour Party!).

The article was originally published in Gaze Journal, but Secret Life of a Manhattan Call Girl has it available via her blog.

According to Chris Knight, one of the IUSW founders, prior to passing its governance to the GMB in 2002, the IUSW was, “fledgling and rather informal”. In the first issue of the IUSW journal, Respect, published in 2000, the founders declared: “When the oldest profession comes out, pimps and capitalists beware! … Whatever your sex or sexual situation, if you feel you need a union, you are welcome to join!”

But the IUSW, often mistaken for the GMB Adult Entertainment Branch, is far from the left wing, pro-worker organisation its founders intended it to be. Some former members have told me that it is more of a mouthpiece for pimps and punters, and rather than warning them to “beware” as did its founders, the IUSW today welcomes sex industry bosses as members with open arms. The endorsement of the GMB, albeit for the official union branch representing those in the sex industry has led to the IUSW appearing to represent the ‘workers’ within the sex industry.

Such organisations are politically motivated lobby groups campaigning for total decriminalisation of the sex trade, hence the fact that pimps and punters are encouraged to join. In the Netherlands, where brothel prostitution has been legal since 2000, the Red Thread prostitutes’ rights group founded a union in 2002 that at its height only had 100 members, mainly managers and erotic dancers. It lost its government funding in 2004. No one within either the GMB or IUSW have been either able or prepared to give me exact figures as to how many members there are in the actual union branch, but it is thought to be between 20 and 100 out of an estimated 80,000 sex workers in the UK.

EDIT 25/Sep/16: the full article is available here: