While the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) receives the bulk of its funding from left-wing foundations, they’ve also been the recipient of federal grant dollars from the Department of Labor. This relationship has caused no small amount of controversy; for instance, ROC is currently part of an investigation by the House of Representatives, as the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform tries to determine why taxpayers are funding an organization with a history of “intimidation of opponents” and “management problems.”
But the committee’s questions shouldn’t stop here. Also of interest is why the Labor Department is funding an organization that frequently boasts of lobbying Congress to impose new mandates on employers.
For instance, in her recently released book, ROC co-founder Saru Jayaraman boasts about her group’s lobbying efforts: “In the spring of 2010, Nikki [a ROC organizer] became a lobbyist for the first time…As a result of all the workers’ efforts [lobbying on Capitol Hill], more than two dozen new members of Congress signed on to the Healthy Families Act.” Jayaraman explains that “Over the last several years we’ve lobbied for paid sick days at the local, state and federal levels…” Despite all of this, ROC reported to the IRS that it does not engage in lobbying, as indicated in the group’s most recent Form 990.
Jayaraman clearly has a cozy relationship with DOL officials, and it’s possible that they approve of her lobbying efforts from an ideological perspective. However, taxpayers might not feel the same way. An organization that intimidates its opponents and lobbies for new mandates on employers is undeserving of federal grant money, and it’s high time Congress put a stop to it. There was another group that received federal funding that also decided to play in the political space as well—you would think that ROC wouldn’t want to become the next ACORN.