Strategies for Massage Parlor Workers’ Rights

This project centers community-led campaigns and research to find systemic ways to improve Asian migrant massage and sex workers' living and working conditions in the Chinatown/International District and the greater Seattle area.

This project centers community-led campaigns and research to find systemic ways to improve Asian migrant massage and sex workers' living and working conditions in the Chinatown/International District and the greater Seattle area.

This project, led by Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP) in collaboration with the UWCHR, deepens community-based research on how state laws and other regulations impact the living and working conditions of Asian migrant workers in the greater Seattle area. MPOP is a grassroots collective that conducts outreach and political education with Asian migrant massage and sex workers in the Chinatown/International District and the greater Seattle area. They involve workers in research design and implementation and report findings back to the workers and the broader communities. 

OBJECTIVES

By engaging in community-led research, we hope to answer the following questions:

  • What are the institutions (state, municipal, county level) that impact the lives of massage parlor workers in the region? 
  • What are the state laws being referenced in criminalization? 
  • What are the municipal codes/laws in each city that are being used in criminalization? 
  • How does this compare with other massage industries across race and gender groups? 
  • What are other organizing efforts by workers engaged in informal, gendered labor across industries (domestic workers, street vendors etc.)?
  • How has language within media coverage, legislation, licensing requirements, and other areas shaped narratives around Asian massage workers?

We believe that in answering these questions, we can hone in on strategies that can not only change the systemic conditions of Asian massage workers in the greater Seattle area, but contribute to the rights of massage parlor workers and sex workers both nationally and on a global scale.

Community-based research: This project is structured in a way to support the engagement of massage parlor workers themselves in research design, implementation, and sharing of findings. Undergraduate UW students and faculty will collaborate with MPOP to conduct community/participatory research; provide communications support that engages worker leaders in discussion and cultural work around our major research questions; planning community teach-ins; and worker outreach and research.

 

Faculty Director

  • Ching-In Chen

    Ching-In Chen

    Assistant Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell

Student Researchers

Partners

*Banner (featured image at the top): A sign at an event reads “solidarity with massage workers”. Photo credit: Massage Parlor Outreach Project Seattle.