Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) has been accused of harassment by Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California. The House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform is inquiring into the Department of Labor’s support for ROC.
Congressman Issa’s letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis states that “ROC’s history of intimidation towards opponents and management problems with its own restaurant raises significant questions about why DOL decided to form an alliance with and provide federal funding to the organization.” Citing media reports, Congressman Issa stated as follows:
ROC targets restaurants that it believes have subpar safety or workplace conditions and demands that the restaurant pay a monetary award. When a restaurant resists these demands, ROC organizes large protests outside the restaurant, harasses patrons who want to enter and eat in the restaurant, and even place giant inflatable cockroaches outside of the restaurant. In one example, ROC repeatedly harassed celebrity Chef Mario Batali’s restaurant in New York City, forcing Mr. Batali to obtain a restraining order against ROC.
ROC was founded in New York after September 11, 2001 in response to the loss of many restaurant jobs. ROC’s stated mission is “to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low-wage restaurant work force.” In 2009 ROC received a $275,000 grant from the DOL through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Susan Harwood program, whose purpose is to educate restaurant employers and workers on prevention of health and safety hazards, as well as inform workers of their rights.