Red Canary Song

Red Canary Song

National, focused on labor rights, education, advocacy, serving migrant massage and sex workers of the Asian diaspora, pan-AAPI

About the Organization:

Red Canary Song is a grassroots organization of Asian and migrant sex workers and massage workers, organizing transnationally. Our work is in the tradition of sex worker mutual aid, and we center base-building with migrant massage workers through a labor rights, migrant justice, and PIC abolitionist framework. We believe that the full decriminalization of sex work is necessary for the safety and survival of massage workers and trafficking survivors.

organizational budget

$500,000 - 1 million

existence for

6-10 years

The Issue:

Red Canary Song is a collective of migrant massage workers, sex workers, and allies of the Asian Diaspora. As Asian women and non-binary folk, we are targeted by the hypersexualization of our identities and the violence that ensues due to racism and systemic oppression. Workers are silenced by the overwhelming anti-trafficking media and moralist crusade to rescue workers who live/work in conditions that are suited to economic survival. Our community is in constant threat of surveillance and raids from policing and other systems of oppression (through housing and public health violations, licensure and the policing of immigration)

In the past five years, while arrests for prostitution have decreased following nationwide interest in decriminalizing sex work, the arrest of Asian massage workers for unlicensed massage have increased. In New York City, more than 90 percent of those arrested under these statutes are Asian women. The majority of those arrested are noncitizens and have detrimental impacts on social, emotional, and economic livelihood.

The Solution:

In March 2021 the Manhattan DA’s office announced that it would no longer prosecute people charged on counts of prostitution, and closed over 1,000 open prostitution-related cases. Despite growing nationwide support of the decriminalization of sex work, migrant massage workers have paradoxically become ensnared in the escalation of the racialized policing of sex and low wage work. These arrests often turn to new policing and prosecutorial codes–rather than be arrested for prostitution, migrant massage workers are often arrested for unlicensed massage, following a wave of new massage licensure bills that have been introduced in the past decade.

Rather than a raid and rescue approach, which has proven to endorse the surveillance and criminalization of sex work, we focus on labor organizing and basebuilding as a way to build migrant massage and sex worker power. In response to the ongoing criminalization of our community, we engage in peer outreach and community mutual aid for impacted workers that involves cash assistance, grocery delivery, legal aid and access to healthcare. We shape public narratives around massage work and sex work by centering workers’ life stories and experiences, as told through our Oral History Project, documentary films, art events, and other worker-led programming. Furthermore, we prioritize colllaborations with migrant massage worker organizations throughout North America–as evidenced in a recent co-authored report “Unlicensed.”

In 2021, the NY ACLU found our outreach work and research so compelling that it partnered with us to introduce the Massage License Decriminalization Act A 1112 (sponsored by Senator Julia Salazar and House Rep Jessica Gonzalez Rohas) the nation’s first law to decriminalize migrant massage work.

Our key goals for the coming years are to get funding to sustain our current services and to push for massage license decriminalization in NY to remove criminal penalties for practicing unlicensed massage and to prevent law enforcement from seizing massage workers’ money and other personal property as well as the Decriminalizing Sex Work Bill / Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act (SVSTA).

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