ROC’s “Really Lucrative” Lawsuit Shakedown

Though the Restaurant Opportunities Center was created with labor union dollars, their tax returns suggest it’s foundation dollars that have allowed the organization to grow by leaps and bounds in recent years. However, as ROC co-founder Saru Jayaraman explained at a recent conference of liberal advocacy groups, their coffers have also been filled via a clever shakedown of employers and the workers they claim to represent.

As it turns out, ROC has more than workers’ interests in mind when they stage restraining order-worthy protests outside of restaurants. Jayaraman explains:

“The leaders actually instituted a rule at ROC that every time we do a campaign, workers have to contribute 10% of whatever they win to the organization.”

“Contribute” is the wrong word here, which implies that the money was given willingly for charitable purposes. ROC is forcing workers to pay up as compensation for the “millions of dollars” they’ve extorted collected from restaurants. (It’s no surprise that Jayaraman describes their 10 percent cut as “really lucrative.”)

Shakedowns like this are nice work, if you can get it: Send a letter to a restaurant demanding millions of dollars in compensation for unsupported allegations of wage theft, and threaten to launch large-scale protests and lawsuits if they don’t pay up. Keep up the protests until the employer pays up just to make you go away, then take a chunk of that money off the top for yourself and use it to fund your next protest.

Not only is ROC’s practice shameful—it’s also hypocritical. ROC’s leadership felt they were justified in taking part of the winnings because they were “going out, protesting in the snow and the rain and all kinds of weather” during their restaurant campaigns.  But ROC has previously expected their own members to do the same type of work–for free.  They described it as “sweat equity;” the members who filed a lawsuit for failure to pay minimum wage felt otherwise.

Chalk it up as more evidence that ROC is interested in “opportunities” for itself and its labor cronies—not the workers it claims to represent.