Harder than it looks

roc-nyThe Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a worker center group that has received SEIU support, loves to try to tell restaurant owners how to do their job. In 2006, the front group decided to try to show restaurant owners how they should do their job and opened “Colors” in New York City. To put it mildly, the restaurant has had a troubled history.

The restaurant was advertised as a co-op owned by workers from a famous New York restaurant destroyed on 9/11. In 2007, several workers sued the Restaurant Opportunity Center for failing to pay them what they were owed and failing to give them the ownership interest they were promised. As reported by the New York Post:

“ROC-NY used us and many others to perform hundreds of hours of unpaid work to raise money and promote its name and the co-op restaurant project. They even had us kick back our tips when we worked at parties and events as cooks and waiters,” one of the former Windows [on the World] employees, Orlando Godoy, said.

“We put in the time because we believed that we were ‘worker-owners’ . . . The only owners are ROC and the Italian investors. Our work remains unpaid.”

Godoy was one of 330 people employed at Windows when it was destroyed on 9/11, killing 73 of his co-workers.

At one point, the executive director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, Saru Jayaraman, demanded workers sign a contract agreeing to pay dues and attend protests, among other things. The plight of the restaurant workers was so bad that a union lawyer agreed to take the case pro bono. Again, from the Post in 2007:

[Former restaurant board member Behzad] Pasdar charges, Jayaraman used ex-Windows staffers as a “golden goose.” “She dragged them around town to [raise money from] foundations. But she wouldn’t even pay them as promised.”

Nereda Pena’s story seems to confirm that. The Mexican-born former Windows worker, whom ROC used to fund-raise for Colors, spoke recently to The Post in Spanish. “I came to ROC everyday, sometimes as early as six. I worked all day. I was told I would get paid, but they never gave me anything. Instead, I’d get back to ROC at the end of the day and ask for enough to buy a subway fare home. They refused even that,” she said. This, she says, went on for months…

“[ROC’s executive director] would often say, ‘We don’t want white people here. We don’t work with white people.’ We would argue that as a social-justice organization, we can’t distinguish between races. But she said we use whites and then leave them.”…

“I’ve spent my whole life working in city restaurants,” says Pasdar, “but nothing was as bad as the three years I spent with ROC.”

In late 2007, a new chef arrived to try to turn around the restaurant, which was deeply in debt. Things were so bad that the restaurant struggled to pay its rent and workers voted to slash their minimum wage by more than $4 an hour. This time, from the New York Sun:

“I walked in and I was asked to pick up the pieces,” Christopher Faulkner, who took over as Colors’s chef in November, said. “I walked into a disaster.”

The previous chef had left months earlier along with almost half the original staff of 58. The remaining employees hadn’t been paid in weeks. Dishes on the menu were deleted, one by one, and there wasn’t enough money to order food supplies.

In 2009, the restaurant closed for five months. It closed again in 2012 and wasn’t reopened until last fall.

In addition to its financial and labor problems, the restaurant has also had sanitation problems. The New York Department of Health twice cited it for “critical violations” involving rats and mice.

Who Pays?

Early on, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union provided funding; Bruce Herman, a former union leader, helped arrange additional funding.

Union support continues, according to Workercenterwatch.com:

“The unions have been a major source of initial and on-going funding and in fact, have provided significant in-kind contributions as well. In fact, the ROC chapter in Los Angeles has been housed within the SEIU offices for some time. The support comes in various ways – direct subsidies, in-kind support and grants such as the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have received from the AFL-CIO-related Consortium for Worker Education.”

It also appears that SEIU is supporting ROC’s efforts in Seattle. Liberal foundations and government agencies provide additional funding for ROC.

Maybe the Restaurant Opportunities Center should treat its own employees better – and learn how to run a clean, successful restaurant – before it goes around lecturing everyone else.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a worker center group that has received SEIU support, loves to try to tell restaurant owners how to do their job. In 2006, the front group decided to try to show restaurant owners how they should do their job and opened “Colors” in New York City. To put it mildly, […]

SEIU Admits Fight for $15 About Unions, Not Minimum Wage

Kendall Fells, Service Employees International Union rep, admits SEIU and Fast Food Forward Fight for $15 minimum wage are really about unionizing fast food

In a story broken by RebelPundit, it appears that Kendall Fells, a SEIU Rep and former organizer for Fast Food Forward, has leaked SEIU’s true intentions:

Quote from the video:

Just to be clear, this is not a minimum wage campaign, these fast food workers are not trying to raise minimum wage. They want to sit down with the $200 billion fast food industry and get the money out of their pockets and negotiate a union contract with them.

Fells’ comments were at a September 24th panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference called “Working Families Fight Back.”

As we’ve discussed before, the SEIU “Fight for $15” was never about the minimum wage, it was about pulling in more union members. By targeting fast food chains like McDonalds and Burger King with illegal activity in their Fight for $15, they aren’t really trying to get higher wages for workers. In reality, they’re just trying to get more dues from new members.

Increasing the minimum wage is not without consequence, but there may be an even deeper impact of these policies. It may end up that SEIU members get all the dues but none of the extra wages:

Proposition 1 gives employers a break from the minimum wage, the paid sick days and other employee protections – as long as the business is unionized.

That means employers have a big incentive to cozy up with the same labor unions who pushed the idea and have contributed hundreds of thousands to the campaign. It all looks like a nice bit of self-dealing for organized labor.

That’s right- when it comes down to it, the very fast food workers the SEIU is pushing to protest and illegally act may never see the higher wages. The same union will then go to employers and convince them to unionize so they don’t have to abide by the wages they just pushed.

Ultimately, fast food workers may find themselves with less money in their pockets from involuntary dues taken from their paychecks. Meanwhile, their union status means they see none of the additional wages from the “Fight for $15”. It is clear from Kendall Fells’ statement that the SEIU’s priorities only come down to their own wages, not those of their members.

Kendall Fells, Service Employees International Union rep, admits SEIU and Fast Food Forward Fight for $15 minimum wage are really about unionizing fast food In a story broken by RebelPundit, it appears that Kendall Fells, a SEIU Rep and former organizer for Fast Food Forward, has leaked SEIU’s true intentions: Quote from the video: Just […]

Behind “Worker Centers” – SEIU’s Newest Unionization Scheme

Service Employee International Union uses “Worker Centers” like Fast Food Forward to evade worker protections and draft new workers into the SEIU. Part I.
SEIU's worker center, Fast Food Forward, promoted on Twitter

The SEIU’s official Twitter promotes efforts of one of their worker centers, Fast Food Forward.

Consider the SEIU’s predicament. Now is not the best time to be in the leadership of the SEIU. Far from being the “fastest growing union, the SEIU is shrinking, even despite favorable treatment by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Not even Obama’s unconstitutional appointees and regular rulings in favor of unions can improve their numbers.

So the SEIU is forced to choose between making the union more competitive to workers and finding even sneakier ways of organizing. As you can probably assume, they’ve chosen the latter option out of the two. The SEIU is finding new ways around the laws surrounding labor organizations.

In most unionization attempts, the union traditionally approaches workers and attempts to organize them directly with the stated purpose of organizing them into a union. Once they reach critical mass, they either demand the employer to voluntarily recognize the union (card check) or they ask the NLRB to hold a vote. There is a significant amount of law surrounding what employers and unions may do here. These laws protect employees from shady dealings by both the unions and employers.

Now, it seems the SEIU is finding new ways to infiltrate employees without making it seem like they’re actually organizing. The SEIU is connected to many of the new “worker center” groups across the country, with names like “Fast Food Forward” that target different industries. The SEIU’s ties to groups like “Fast Food Forward” are documented in this piece by the National Legal and Policy Center:

Our old ACORN friend, New York Communities for Change, is partnering with the Service Employees International Union… in a campaign called Fast Food Forward. The SEIU-directed group has hired 40 full-time persons to organize workers at McDonald’s, Domino’s, Wendy’s and other New York City fast-food outlets. The group’s modus operandi is targeting outlets for an employee walkout. Fast Food Forward seeks a minimum industry wage of $15 an hour and union recognition for workers.

Groups like these operate chiefly through Facebook and Twitter pages, and email/phone text campaigns that directly contact interested employees in various industries. Since the online presence doesn’t require a physical address, it’s much harder to prove a link between the union and the sham group. As described by CNS News, Workers Centers are preferred by unions specifically because of this separation:

…Worker centers operate outside of the parameters of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and enjoy mainstream support from groups unaware that behind the curtain, these centers are being funded and guided by seasoned labor organizers. This arrangement allows unions easy access to activists, and potentially new members, while providing a relatively bulletproof apparatus from which to focus their attacks on non-unionized industries and companies.

Through these sham groups, the SEIU can organize things like strikes and walkouts without having the union name attached. This way they avoid NLRB rules about that govern how these activities are conducted. Employees can protest indefinitely.

A key example of this is Artistic Stitches, Inc., where a SEIU affiliate, Workers United, attained representation through “spontaneous strikes” organized by a worker center:

Workers approached the interfaith workers’ rights organization Arise Chicago, who assisted in organizing co-workers to know their rights on the job. Selecting Workers United as their union with which to affiliate, the workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election. Last week, the workers won by a decisive majority and now have union representation.
“The relationship between the workers center and our union has been perfect,” said Margarita Klein, staff director of Workers United. “And this is only the beginning.”
Cortez had the following message for other workers in a situation like hers: “If something unjust is happening to you at work, there are organizations like Arise and Workers United that can help protect you.”

In writing about the unionization, Insurgent Notes, a neo-communist labor blog notes that worker centers like these often work hand-in-hand with unions like the SEIU:

Another quite recent victory came in Chicago where workers in an embroidery factory secured union representation (in this case, they chose the United Workers, an SEIU affiliate). Many, perhaps most, of these worker center–based organizing projects focused on workers in low-wage jobs, are conducted with the active support and, often enough, leadership provided by a variety of community-based organizations—with support from one or more unions.

Rather than modernizing to provide competitive benefits, the SEIU is trying to repeat their old tricks in new ways. Unfortunately this has been a trend, and they don’t seem particularly interested in reversing it now.

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Service Employee International Union uses “Worker Centers” like Fast Food Forward to evade worker protections and draft new workers into the SEIU. Part I. The SEIU’s official Twitter promotes efforts of one of their worker centers, Fast Food Forward. Consider the SEIU’s predicament. Now is not the best time to be in the leadership of […]