Alex Habighorst

Restaurant Opportunity Centers are sprouting up all over America. These groups bill themselves as training centers for restaurant workers that will turn into cooperative ownership ventures. However, as I and Trey Kovacs point out in our latest article on, this is just not the case:

“ROC also operates a restaurant that sells a vision of cooperative ownership whereby workers are promised a stake in the business in exchange for their labor, which ROC elegantly calls “sweat equity.” But it seems that ROC treats its workers more like indentured servants than restaurant servers.
ROC’s New York restaurant, Colors, has been described by former employees as, “one of the most abusive in the city,” profiting from hundreds of hours of free labor. According to one employee, “ROC-NY used us and many others to perform hundreds of hours of unpaid work. They even had us kick back our tips when we worked at parties and events as cooks and waiters.”

Not only do they treat their workers badly, we the taxpayers are subsidizing their activities to the tune of some $2 million dollars in public grants from OSHA and other government organizations. The real kicker though is that OSHA is giving this money to not only an organization that treats its workers no better than serfs, but also racks up a superfluity of health violations, as we detail:

“ROC’s record on sanitation is hardly any better than the treatment of its workers. Its New York restaurant was cited by the city’s Department of Health for multiple health violations, including evidence of rodent infestation in food areas, kitchen surfaces not properly washed, and food improperly stored.”

Taxpayers are truly getting a raw deal with this group, and they would do far better to revoke funding from groups like ROC, especially in this age of spiraling deficits. A decision to revoke ROCs seat at the table is a no brainer.

In Vermont, the right to own one’s own business, in particular in home care work is coming under attack. Small business owners, and independent contractors are in the sights of a Vermont bill that will force them into a union as well as to pay union dues. CEI Labor Policy Analyst Trey Kovacs explains further over at the VT Digger:

Well, the state of Vermont believes it and its union partners know best when it comes to providing care for the elderly and disabled. Senate Bill 59, which already passed the Vermont Senate, puts elected officials and union bosses in charge of setting standards for in-home care. If enacted the bill would force the more than 6,000 home-care workers — comprised of small business owners, independent contractors and family members — to pays dues to a union whether they like it or not.

These attempts to forcibly unionized America’s home care workers is not novel to the Green Mountain State, but is a fight being played out across America:

For example, SEIU union boss Tyrone Freeman, president of a Los Angeles-area local representing 190,000 home-care workers, recently was found guilty of 14 counts of embezzlement. According to the Los Angeles Times, the low-wage caregivers also sued Freeman – who made $200,000 per year – demanding restitution of more than $1.1 million in dues money he reportedly on high-end liquor, parties and expenses from his Hawaii wedding in 2006.

Forced unionization of home-care workers in the Midwest has produced sadly similar results. In 2006, SEIU, taking advantage of Michigan law that deemed home-care providers government employees, organized a stealth campaign to unionize those workers. Its tactics produced a voter turnout of just 20 percent, and SEIU won a landslide victory. Then, from 2006 to 2013, the SEIU took in more than $34 million in union dues from those members – and provided zero in the way of tangible benefits.

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