A recent review of Internet billboards dealing with prostitution found there are an estimated 15 brothels in the city of Pittsburgh posing as massage parlors and another seven in the rest of the county. The news prompted Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields to draft legislation that would force all massage parlors in the city and their employees to be licensed.
Shields says the $100 fee and other requirements will not negatively impact legitimate operations but it will strike fear into those who are running something that is not above board. Inspectors from the City’s Department of Finance will be able to enter the business at any time to make an inspection of the facilities and its books. “We are going to know who’s operating the business, and we are going to know a lot more about the people that are here, and more importantly, every employee on the premises must have a licenses to conduct this activity,” says Shields.
Shields says the inspections will open the door to criminal investigations if the inspector sees something questionable, “the employees don’t speak English, they don’t seem to have the documentation necessary to be here in this country… Were are your 1099’s if they are contact employees, if they are not contracted where are their W-2’s.”
Advocates say many of the women working in the sex trade are brought into this country by individuals who tell them they will be working as housekeepers and nannies. They are then kept against their will in brothels. That is why the legislation includes provisions to make sure doors are not locked from the outside.
Legislation cosponsor Natalia Rudiak says this is not someone else’s problem. “This is happening in many cases within blocks of our homes, within blocks of our schools,” says Rudiak.
It is unclear how many legitimate business and massage therapists would fall under this licenses class. Facilities that hold other licenses such as physical therapy clinics would be exempt from the law.