History and Founding

According to the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) official history, the organization was originally created to serve as a resource for restaurant workers displaced by the Sept 11th attacks that destroyed Windows on the World, a restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. But by ROC leaders’ own admission, the group’s mission quickly changed. Dollars & Sense, a progressive magazine, reported in 2004:

In solidarity with the displaced and grieving restaurant workers, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 100 set up a temporary relief center—the Immigrant Workers Assistance Alliance—for restaurant employees and their families… In the face of this urgent and continuing need, HERE Local 100 asked immigration attorney Saru Jayaraman and Windows waiter Fekkak Mamdouh to launch the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, or ROC-NY, a permanent workers’ center. Jayaraman and Mamdouh quickly expanded its scope beyond simply helping workers affected by 9/11.

According to a lawsuit filed against ROC by its own members:

ROC-NY was created in April 2002 and initially helped devise a needs-based assistance plan for the HERE Fund. Applications for assistance were, in fact, filed with ROC- NY. ROC-NY also provided training, financed by HERE, to enhance the skills of the displaced workers. In around August 2003, the HERE Fund granted $112,627 to ROC-NY to to ROC-NY to support the former Windows on the World workers in an announced endeavor to create a cooperatively owned restaurant.

ROC co-founder Fekkak Mamdouh subsequently wrote in his book, The Accidental American, that “what the Windows workers really needed was a political shift; the occasional job training or cash assistance would make no long-term difference in their unstable lives.

It only took a year before ROC’s mission evolved. The New York Press reported in December 2003:

[ROC’s] effort has since evolved into the more ambitious (and less reported) goal of organizing the 99 percent of the industry that’s non-union.

Thus, ROC was reborn as a vicious labor union front group aimed at attacking non-union restaurants.