Initially founded to provide support to restaurant workers displaced after September 11, 2001, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) is dedicated to winning improved wages and working conditions for restaurant workers and raising public recognition of restaurant workers’ contributions to our city. Our members include approximately 5,500 restaurant workers and their families from all parts of the world and from different segments of one of the nation’s fastest growing industries.
We have organized workers at different restaurants all over New York City. Through their collective action, we have won ten major workplace justice campaigns that resulted in more than $6 million in back wages and discrimination payments for workers. Furthermore, these victories have also resulted in important workplace improvements.
In 2012, we launched our first nationwide campaign, challenging Darden Restaurants, which owns such popular brands as The Capital Grille, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. Workers in NYC and other cities are rising up to improve working conditions and fight illegal practices. For more information, visit our Workplace Justice page.
About the Industry
The restaurant industry is one of the largest private sector employers in the nation, employing over 10 million people. With over 200,000 restaurant workers, the New York City restaurant industry has been one of the greatest contributors to the City’s overall job growth in the last several years, showing resilience even through hard economic periods. Most workers, however, do not share in the prosperity the industry is experiencing and lack institutional support for organizing efforts. Restaurant workers still face tremendous challenges to financial security and dignity on the job: they are forced to work long hours for low wages, they often work in unhealthy and hazardous working conditions, they are denied basic benefits such as paid sick days, vacation days, and healthcare, and they often face unlawful practices such as workplace discrimination and wage theft.
Our Organizing Strategy
We employ a three-prong strategy to surround the restaurant industry and improve conditions for restaurant workers:
1. Low Road
Through our Workplace Justice Campaigns we organize workers to create consequences for “low road” restaurants that employ illegal and other exploitative workplace practices.
2. High Road
We work with and promote High Road Restaurants that value their workers and treat them with dignity, and we coordinate the New York City Restaurant Industry Roundtable, a multi-stakeholder coalition that meets regularly to develop strategies to improve and promote better working conditions in the industry. We also run a free restaurant industry training program for ROC-NY members to ensure that our members are trained to access living wage jobs in the restaurant industry regardless of who they are, what they look like, what their gender is, and what their immigration status is.
3. Research and Policy