SACRAMENTO — Yesterday evening, the sex worker community became aware that California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia had quietly introduced a new bill, AB2389, proposing a “state permit” system for anyone it classified as an “adult performer.”
Two of the main organizations representing stakeholders in the adult entertainment space, the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG) and trade group the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), immediately sounded the alarm about this bizarrely worded piece of proposed legislation that would step-up state authority over the activities of a vast number of sex workers.
The bill states that “a person shall not work as an entertainer at an adult entertainment business or as a performer in any adult entertainment video, including, but not limited to, internet web-camming sites, without having first obtained a valid business license or permit from the local business license issuing authority.”
Who is behind AB2389?
California Assembly Bill 2389 was introduced by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and co-sponsored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is also the author of the polarizing “Uber Bill” (AB5), which reclassified millions of independent contractors — including many adult performers, strippers and cam models — as employees.
Garcia has represented the 58th Assembly District since 2012. Her district includes several communities in the southeastern part of Los Angeles County. Gonzalez has represented the 80th District, in southern San Diego, since 2013.
Before entering politics, Gonzalez worked as a lawyer. Garcia’s pre-politics credentials are less straightforward: she untruthfully claimed to hold a PhD in public administration during her 2012 campaign.
“In my campaign literature for state assembly, I stated that I have a PhD from USC,” she explained at the time. “While I have finished all of my course work, I technically am only a PhD candidate. I have yet to finish the final process of my PhD, which is defending my dissertation. I will fulfill that final responsibility in the near future.
“As such, I take full responsibility for using the term PhD instead of PhD candidate in my campaign literature,” Garcia added. “For that I humbly apologize and ask for the forgiveness and understanding of all the voters of the 58th Assembly District.”
How did Assemblymember Cristina Garcia become interested in “adult performers” issues?
This morning, XBIZ spoke with a high-ranking member of Garcia’s staff who handles her communication with the press.
The staff member said that the Assemblymember “received the bill from the International Entertainment Adult Union.”
“This group supported the bill, and they gave us the bill in concept,” the staff member confirmed.
When asked about the actual wording of the bill, the staff member said that they could not tell me the specifics of how each section found its way into the bill.
What is the International Entertainment Adult Union (IEAU)?
The International Entertainment Adult Union (IEAU) maintains a website here, where it presents itself as “the only Dept. of Labor-approved union representing the adult industry.”
“That’s the union that brought the bill to us,” said Garcia’s staff member. “They have a website.”
Their website explains that “the IEAU was founded by a woman who has worked in the adult industry her whole life, placing her name and all that she has worked for at risk, to fight for your rights to social security, unemployment, health insurance, and a right to a voice.”
This founder is revealed on another part of the site to be “Amanda Gullesserian aka Phyllisha Anne,” who has been referred to as the “secretary” of the union. The current president’s name is Elisabeth Thomas.
Their mission statement on their website is signed “From the heart, Phyllisha Anne, Elisabeth Thomas & Bill Margold.”
XBIZ spoke to Phyllisha Anne this morning who would not confirm or deny that her organization had drafted AB2389.
“We have a meeting tonight and you’ll have to wait until then,” she told XBIZ.
XBIZ then asked Anne if she was aware that a large number of sex workers were expressing dismay at the wording and requirements of AB2389.
“Stop saying ‘sex workers’ please,” said Anne. “We were told not to use that term.”
How is the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG) connected to this?
Perhaps the most vocal adult industry member sounding the alarm about AB2389 has been Alana Evans, president of the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG).
AB2389 was brought to the attention of XBIZ last night by Evans herself.
Here is where it gets complicated: IEAU, which drafted AB2389, is the “mother union” of APAG.
What’s a “mother union“?
According to their literature, IEAU was granted Department of Labor approval on December 15, 2015 as a “mother union.”
Its three “registered subordinate bodies (chapters) under the IEAU” are listed as the Exotic Dancer Guild (EDG), the Adult Performers Actors Guild (APAG) and the Adult Film Crew (AFC).
According to IEAU, the EDG is said to represent “go-go dancers, burlesque dancers, EDM dancers, bikini dancers, male dancers, Las Vegas showgirls and exotic dancers”; APAG is said to represent “current or veteran talent who have worked or are working as an adult film performer”; and AFC is said to represent “camera men, editors, writers, make-up artists, production assistants, talent scouts, drivers, office employees, adult warehouse workers and more.”
The IEAU defines “adult industry” as “any industry where you must be of the legal of 18 years and above to work,” including “cocktail waitress, bartenders, tattoo artists, non-professional UFC fighters, boxers, bouncers, security guards, live web cam workers as well as the industries mentioned above.”
Did IEAU leadership consult with “subordinate body” APAG before submitting the draft of AB2389 to assemblywoman Cristina Garcia?
“Categorically — no,” a shaken Alana Evans told XBIZ this morning, before releasing a statement demanding the immediate resignation of the IEAU board.
“We are shocked, disgusted and angry that our parent union did this without discussing it with APAG, without discussing it with the industry and without discussing it with stakeholders,” Evans told XBIZ.
“Nobody contacted us about this. Not the IEAU, not Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who I met Thursday to discuss AB5,” said Evans who described herself as “blindsided,” before assuring her membership that “my union has complete dedication for the defeat of their bill.”
Did Assemblymember Garcia or her staff consult with any person or group with expertise in sex work issues or with any stakeholders before submitting their AB2389 proposal?
It does not seem like it. During our phone call this morning, this senior staff member expressed a lack of knowledge “about sex work issues” and kept repeating that “the performers’ union” (i.e., IEAU) had brought the bill to them.
“We haven’t reached out to any stakeholders yet. This is the part of the process where people typically would have their voices heard, after the introduction of the bill,” they explained.
The staff member had never heard of leading trade group the Free Speech Coalition, or the 2257 lawsuits about record-keeping and the many actions on behalf of First Amendment protections that constitute the legal backbone of the existing adult industry.
The staff member did not know when the first public hearing on the bill would be held. “The last day is April 24,” the staff member explained. “So it will probably be sometime in March or April before [April] 24.”
Assemblymember Garcia’s staffer said that there would be time for “anyone concerned about the issue” to voice their opinions on the bill between now and then.
“We welcome community feedback,” they said. “We have an ‘open door’ policy.”
That’s great. How can we get in touch with Assemblymember Garcia if we are one of the several sex worker communities affected by her bill?
For Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s website, click here.
Her Sacramento office, where she currently is in session, is:
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0058
Tel: (916) 319-2058
Fax: (916) 319-2158
Her LA County district office is:
8255 Firestone Blvd
Downey, CA 90241
Tel: (562) 861-5803
Fax: (562) 861-5158
So, what does California Assembly Bill 2389 actually say and why are sex workers sounding the alarm about not being consulted before its stealthy introduction?
The digest, or summary, that prefaces the bill states that, if enacted, it “would prohibit adult entertainers or performers from working at an adult entertainment business or working in an adult entertainment video unless they have a valid business license.”
What do they mean by “adult entertainers or performers“ or “adult entertainment businesses“?
They don’t say with any degree of enforceable clarity, but later refer to any person working “as an entertainer at an adult entertainment business or as a performer in any adult entertainment video, including, but not limited to, internet web-camming sites.”
Are they suggesting that it should be left to the State of California to decide how models, actors and entertainers that exercise sexual expression in their work are different from other models, actors and entertainers?
“The Assemblymember is in session right now and I will try to get her to answer those questions when she gets out,” Garcia’s spokesperson said. “Email me the parts of the bill that these groups [sex workers, adult performers, adult industry] have issues with.”
At the time of publication, the spokesperson said that both Garcia and an IEAU would release statements this afternoon.
What does this “valid business license“ for “adult entertainers and performers“ entail?
“The bill would, on and after July 1, 2022, require these entertainers and performers to complete a specified biennial training program regarding safety and working rights for adult entertainer workers.”
Who would be in charge of running that “biennial training program regarding safety and working rights“?
“The bill would, by January 1, 2022, require the Department of Industrial Relations to create the training program and to convene an advisory group, composed of specified representatives of the adult performance industry, to provide recommendations for the creation and dissemination of the training.”
Who would be in this “Advisory Group” and how would it be appointed?
The proposed “Advisory Group” will assist with recommendations for creating and disseminating the training curriculum.
It will consist of 10 members “with the following representatives appointed by the Governor”
(i) Two members with adult film experience.
(ii) Three members with dancing experience.
(iii) Two medical doctors.
(iv) One licensed therapist.
(v) One licensed money manager.
Wait, it says 10 members, but that’s only nine people appointed by the Governor?
We know. It’s unclear whether this is sloppy bill writing, or there’s some kind of ace-in-the-hole shenanigan where this 10th shadow member is not appointed by Governor.
What does “adult film experience“ mean?
Unclear. It could very well be an out-and-proud sex worker with several XBIZ awards and a career in community building or Mia Khalifa, who performed in porn for a few months, years ago, and is now an anti-porn propagandist.
How much do these “Advisory Group” members get paid?
“Each member of the advisory committee shall receive a per diem of two hundred dollars ($200) for each day actually spent in the discharge of official duties, and shall be reimbursed for travel and other expenses necessarily incurred in the performance of official duties.”
Okay, so after this “Advisory Group” appointed by the California Governor creates this training, then what?
“The training shall be required for the issuance or renewal of the adult entertainer’s or performer’s license or permit.”
Fine, I still wanna be a sex worker because I believe in body autonomy and I like getting paid. How long does this training last?
“The initial training shall be a minimum of two hours and shall be required for all adult performers 21 years of age and older. Initial training for adult entertainers and performers shall be a minimum of two hours and 45 minutes. Subsequent training shall be completed every three years and shall be a minimum of 45 minutes.”
“If the training is conducted on an internet website, the website shall contain an interactive feature in order to complete the training.”
So, I need to sit for two or three hours in front of the computer, traffic-school style and then I get my State Sex Worker Permit?
Yup, as long as you’re 21.
Hold on — what happens to sex workers who are aged 18-21?
Unclear. AB2389 appears to suddenly and sneakily make 18-21 sex work, including porn, camming and stripping illegal in California. But again, this could be sloppy bill writing.
What’s gonna be part of the training though? I guess we’ll have to wait until the Governor appoints this “Advisory Group.”
Nope, the parameters are also part of this bill:
“The training curriculum shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following information:
(1) The rights and responsibilities of adult entertainers and performers as employees.
(2) Reporting workplace injuries, including physical and sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
(3) The risk of human trafficking and how to report suspected human trafficking.
(4) Resources for assistance, including any applicable hotline telephone numbers.
Ah. Now this is starting to make sense. “Human trafficking.” Do those well-founded, often faith-based lobbies seem to have had a hand in this?
Could be. So many of these for-profit “how to spot human trafficking educators” are faith-based operations attempting to tell sex workers what’s better for them.
So who’s paying for this course that is mandatory if you want to be an adult performer or entertainer, often because you need to make extra money for basic living expenses?
“The fee for the training shall be paid by the adult entertainer or performer and shall not exceed the reasonable cost of providing the training.”
Yeah, I know. Cold.
And then what?
“The Department [of Labor] shall issue a training completion certificate to the adult entertainer or performer upon completion of the training. If the training was conducted on an internet website, the website shall provide a means for the adult entertainer or performer to print out a training completion certificate.”
“Each adult entertainer or performer shall also obtain a Live Scan fingerprinting as part of completing the initial training.”
Hold on, is AB2389 creating a database of sex workers where the sex workers have to give biometric information in order to work.
Privacy is dead. Don’t worry about it. What could the state bureaucrats and law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels do with that information?
What’s the rationale given by Assemblymembers Garcia and Gonzalez, who admittedly have no expertise in sex worker issues or have consulted with a critical mass of people who do, for pushing this bill now?
The Assemblymembers explicitly want the California Legislature to “find and declare” all of the following:
(a) There are hundreds of thousands of adult entertainers currently working in the United States.
(b) All adult entertainment workers are now classified as employees in the State of California as determined by Assembly Bill 5 (Chapter 296 of the Statutes of 2019), with other states now following closely behind.
(c) Safety, general welfare, and working conditions in the adult entertainment industry are a major high risk and concern.
(d) Workers in the adult entertainment industry deserve working rights as much as workers in any other industry, helping to protect them as well as their families.
(e) Education on safety and working rights for adult entertainment workers is necessary because, in the absence of such regulation, significant criminal activity has historically and regularly occurred, and depression and suicide rates have risen.
(f) It is necessary to prevent the exploitation of minors in the adult entertainment industry, to ensure that those workers have not assumed a false name that would make regulation of the worker difficult or impossible and to ensure that those workers are not involved in criminal activity. It is also necessary in order to ensure that the worker is not a victim of human trafficking and may legally work in the United States.
(g) The avoidance of tax payments has historically occurred in the adult entertainment industry with the absence of regulations and permits.
Let’s unpack that.
(a) “There are hundreds of thousands of adult entertainers currently working in the United States”: Was there a nationwide census of “adult entertainers” we have not heard about?
(b) “All adult entertainment workers are now classified as employees in the State of California as determined by Assembly Bill 5 (Chapter 296 of the Statutes of 2019), with other states now following closely behind”: This is just not true. AB5 is a notoriously poorly written — by one of the two sponsors of the equally shoddy AB238 — piece of legislation that is being currently debated and deciphered by expensive lawyers and CPAs all across the state and several industries. Rational (b) is a lie.
(c) “Safety, general welfare, and working conditions in the adult entertainment industry are a major high risk and concern”: “High risk” of what? “Concern” to whom? This goes beyond overbroad to be meaningless. If there are any specific problems in the gig economy or showbiz, such as wage stagnation or erratic work offers, or the adult world in particular, such as on-set STI transmission, nothing in AB2389 specifically addresses that.
(d) “Workers in the adult entertainment industry deserve working rights as much as workers in any other industry, helping to protect them as well as their families”: Yes, absolutely. Then why is a bill being drafted to discriminate against them and stigmatize them as a “special category of tainted person”?
(e) “Education on safety and working rights for adult entertainment workers is necessary because, in the absence of such regulation, significant criminal activity has historically and regularly occurred, and depression and suicide rates have risen.”
We asked the spokesperson for Assemblymember Garcia about supporting material for the assertion that “significant criminal activity has historically and regularly occurred, and depression and suicide rates have risen.”
The spokesperson asked another staffer, who said they were looking into it.
(f) “It is necessary to prevent the exploitation of minors in the adult entertainment industry, to ensure that those workers have not assumed a false name that would make regulation of the worker difficult or impossible and to ensure that those workers are not involved in criminal activity. It is also necessary in order to ensure that the worker is not a victim of human trafficking and may legally work in the United States.”
Let’s be crystal clear about this: In the name of “preventing child labor,” AB2389 would demand that any porn performer, clip artist, stripper and cam model reveal if they’re using “a false name,” have the burden of proof that they are not ” a victim of human trafficking” and be put under specific scrutiny by ICE and subject to deportation just because of what they do.
Are we done?
Nope, there’s one more:
(g) “The avoidance of tax payments has historically occurred in the adult entertainment industry with the absence of regulations and permits.”
Yup, porn performers, cam girls and strippers — even after you’ve jumped through their State Sex Worker Permit licensing hoops, AB2389 wants to turn the IRS on you, based on a “historical occurrence” of tax dodging.
So, who keeps track of all these State Sex Worker Permits and all the new paperwork and bureaucratic turf contests AB2389 will create?
“An employer shall keep a copy of the certificate of training completion for each adult entertainer or performer employed for three years following the termination of employment.”
How are they going to police this?
“These copies shall be available to the employee or to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement upon request.”
So they are going after the studios and producers. I’m just a performer, so I’m good?
Nope. “Each adult entertainer or performer shall keep a copy of the certificate of training completion issued and shall present it to the local business license issuing authority or the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement upon demand.”
So, who’s profiting from all this nonsense?
“The Department of Industrial Relations shall, by January 1, 2022, develop, or contract for the development of, training for adult entertainers and performers.”
“The division and local business license issuing authorities shall have the power to enforce the requirement that adult entertainers and performers and employers, within their jurisdiction, comply with the requirements of this chapter.”
“If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.”
What have performer and industry groups said about this in the last 18 hours or so since Garcia unleashed AB2389 onto unsuspecting sex workers?
“AB2389 places huge, discriminatory burdens on adult performers in the name of protecting them,” says Michelle L. LeBlanc, Executive Director of Free Speech Coalition in a statement last night. “It’s patronizing and ignorant of the fights already waged by adult workers on issues like harassment, workplace safety and privacy protection. It’s unclear why someone hoping to help adult performers would draft a bill as disrespectful as this.”
APAG’s Alana Evans, who sounded the initial alarm about AB2389, published an extensive point-by-point response to the bill, including noting that “the most alarming issue regarding AB2389, is the requirement to give our fingerprints as workers! As we were earlier regarding as a criminal element, they now want to scan your fingerprints to be sure.”
Evans’ heat-of-the-moment breakdown is worth reading in its entirety.
Other performer groups have also expressed dismay about AB2389.
“This bill is a clear attempt to wring money from the adult performer labot force, who are already struggling under stagnant wages,” the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee’s Riley Reyes told XBIZ. “It pushes an already marginalized community further into criminalization.”
“APAC will not stand for legislation written without so much as consulting the stakeholders and will fight alongside our colleagues to make our voices heard,” Reyes added.
Performer and cam model Mary Moody, board member of the recently convened Adult Industry Laborers & Artists (AiLAA) told XBIZ that AB2389’s language “includes infamous misinformation and slander such as adult industry workers not paying taxes.”
“It also appears to require performers to endanger their lives by providing real names, addresses and even fingerprints to a database that might be public,” Moody added, noting that AiLAA will organize their members around the hashtag #Stop2389 to raise awareness.
Casey Kisses told XBIZ that AB2389 does not seem “made in the performers’ best interest.”
“In my opinion, it will actually make it harder for consenting adults to legally navigate the adult industry, therefore causing more crime than benefit,” Kisses said. “As a performer, webcam model and content producer, I fail to see how forcing all sex workers to pay for training and licensing is going to make the industry any safer than it currently is.”
Noted director, performer and customs clips maker Casey Calvert told XBIZ that besides the language being “inconvenient and a pain-in-the-ass, it’s also quite scary and not a good idea.”
“They’re trying to over-regulate our industry by claiming to be legitimizing it. It feels like the same old attempt at trying to shut us down. They tried HIV panics, condom panics, ‘human traffic’ panics and now they’re trying to do it by ‘over-legitimazing’ us instead of protecting us like any other workers,” Calvert said.
Did Assemblymember Cristina Garcia eventually get back to you with her statement?
Yes, as we were preparing the story. She compares sex work regulation to “food handling.”
Here’s the full statement we received through her spokesperson this afternoon:
Assembly Bill 2389 requires a training course to inform workers in the industry about their rights; workers should be able to make informed decisions about protecting their physical and mental wellbeing.
AB 2389 will insure workers in this industry receive up-to-date training about reporting workplace injuries, including physical abuse, sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
Workers will be trained on the risk of human trafficking, and be given resources for assistance including applicable hotline telephone numbers.
My office is currently working on amendments that address the concerns raised, and it is my goal that the training required by AB 2389 will result in a certification process similar to that of other industries.
For example, the food service industry requires a food handlers training course, in which workers complete a training course and at the end take a quiz. Upon passing the quiz, they are then certified food handlers in this State.
I always have an open door policy and hope for a collaborative process with all stakeholders to ensure a more equitable bill that prioritizes employee safety & wellbeing.
For more of XBIZ coverage of the War On Porn, click here.