Restaurant Opportunities Center

The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) was initially launched by UNITE HERE for the noble purpose of assisting displaced restaurants workers after the September 11, 2001 tragedy.  ROC’s mission soon thereafter morphed, and ROC began mapping the New York City restaurant industry, working conjunctively with its “fiscal sponsor” to identify targets.  According to ROC’s founder, “While HERE focuses on big, ‘tablecloth’ restaurants, ROC-NY works with any restaurants, no matter how small. The goal is to create a labor-friendly climate in these places, so the union can organize them in a few years.”  She has also said, “we want the industry to feel threatened by the union or by us.”

For the first eight years, ROC operated only within New York City, in 2009 financed by U.S. Department of Labor workforce grant monies, ROC expanded nationally.  ROC now maintains staffed chapters in ten cities and claims to have an operational presence in 30.

ROC has been a vocal proponent, and has lobbied, for wage hikes, paid sick leave proposals and other business mandates across the country.  Typical ROC corporate campaigns involve a series of lawsuits accompanied with aggressive protests, causing a least one judge to issue a restraining order against the organization.  ROC’s conduct has drawn the interest of Congress, and the House Committee on Oversight has called for an investigation into the organization.

Founding

ROC evolved from two UNITE HERE-related nonprofits and a program called the Immigrant Workers Assistance Alliance (IWAA), which was established by HERE Local 100. These interrelated initiatives were initially created to assist surviving restaurant workers from Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center, ...

Funding

ROC-NY and ROC United receive funding from numerous sources. The unions have been a major source of initial and on-going funding and in fact, have provided significant in-kind contributions as well. In fact, the ROC chapter in Los Angeles has been housed within the SEIU offices for some time. The ...

Size and Scope

ROC maintains staffed chapters in ten cities: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Michigan, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, DC and San Francisco.  ROC claims to have an operational presence in 30, including but not limited to Boston, Pittsburgh, Portland and Albuquerque. ...

Tactics

ROC employs aggressive union style tactics when pursuing their many public-pressure campaigns. They run the gamut from frivolous lawsuits, publishing indefensible “studies”, to demand letters on employers, to street theater protests, slanderous accusations on the media – all part of a reputational smear campaign designed to damage an employer’s public ...