Labor activists using tactics adopted from the Occupy Wall Street movement are crashing restaurants across the nation in an effort to raise wages for workers – and they’re getting taxpayer money to fund the effort.
Using a combination of federal grants and grants from left-leaning organizations, the Restaurant Opportunity Center, or ROC, is technically a charitable nonprofit and not a union. But their pro-worker messages, anti-employer protests and self-proclaimed goal of organizing service sector employees for the purposes of negotiating higher wages make ROC look and sound much like a labor union.
Some see their tactics as a deliberate attempt to skirt the nation’s labor laws. Only unions elected by a majority of a workplace can negotiate with employers on workers’ behalf, though ROC seems to be doing so in the absence of any election.
But others, including the head of the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for dozens of labor unions, see ROC and groups like them as the new face of labor organizing in America.
ROC gets bankrolled with taxpayer cash
While the Restaurant Opportunity Center is working to increase wages for some workers, they are getting paid, in part, with federal tax dollars.
According to tax filings for ROC United, the parent organization that has launched the smaller chapters operating in many cities, the group got $180,000 in government grants during 2010 and another $60,000 in similar grants during 2011.
The organization’s budget was about $1.72 million in 2010 and $2.65 million in 2011 – meaning taxpayer dollars accounted for a little more than 5 percent of their operating costs.
Other funding for ROC’s initiatives comes from the usual left-wing sources, including grants from the Tides Foundation, a group that also gets tax dollars from the federal government, as a previous Watchdog.org investigation uncovered.
Some Republican members of Congress are asking for an investigation into a Department of Labor grant to ROC.
The group employs disruptive “mic-check” tactics made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Take ROC’s July 25 action at the Capital Grille restaurant in midtown Manhattan.
On that day, during the usual lunch rush, a signal was given — and more than a dozen protesters stood at their tables and shouted their concerns to all within earshot. They were calling attention to what they said was an unfair minimum wage law that allows restaurants in New York City to pay their tipped workers only $5 per hour.
“Capital Grille, shame on you. Restaurant workers deserve fair pay too,” they chanted as they were escorted from the dining area.
It wasn’t only happening in New York.