ROC’s Union Roots

At its inception, ROC—which was originally called ROC-NY—emerged from two funds established by the union that represented workers at Windows on the World, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (That union subsequently merged into UNITE-HERE in 2004, and still identifies itself as the founder of ROC). It was originally dubbed the Restaurant Organizing Center of New York, “but when [ROC Founder] Saru ran the new name by a union ally, he urged her to reconsider using the word ‘organizing.’ He said people thought it was too confrontational, and that it aroused the hostility of foundations, employers, and government. Saru went back to the group, and they replaced ‘organizing’ with the all-American ‘opportunity.’

ROC’s original model was “based on the idea that services like job-search assistance, classes, and legal advocacy help to attract and hold workers, while drawing them into organizing.” National Public Radio’s Margot Adler reported that ROC sees its “larger mission as organizing the more than 160,000 restaurant workers in the city, many foreign born and many undocumented.” ROC’s Jarayaman told Atler that she saw her organization as a “place to begin to organize the 99 percent of the industry that doesn’t have a union.”

Whether the orders come from the labor union bosses or ROC’s directors, ROC organizers around the country remain in hot pursuit of that unionization goal. According to one recent news account, ROC employee “[John ] Cronan has been organizing for a union at Capital Bar and Grille restaurants in New York…”