ROC-United is the only national organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to the needs of restaurant workers.
Despite employing more than 10 million workers and producing more than $1.7 trillion in revenue each year, the United States restaurant industry is less than 1% unionized. Until ROC-United’s growth and development, the lack of organization left millions of restaurant workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation around the country.
Through participatory research and policy work, employer engagement, workplace justice campaigns, membership and leadership development, and more, ROC-United has become a powerful national vehicle for restaurant workers to lift their collective voices on issues affecting all low-wage workers, including the minimum wage, paid sick days, compliance with basic employment standards, and lack of health care.
Founded initially after September 11th, 2001, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) has grown into a national organization with 10,000 low-wage restaurant worker members in more than 26 locations, and growing rapidly.
From 2001 until 2008, our work was focused in New York City, and achieved great success in impact for restaurant workers.
In summer 2007, ROC-NY hosted the nation’s first national restaurant worker convening, and the national organization, ROC-United, was born.
In January 2008, the co-founders of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) left the local organization in the hands of former members and restaurant workers, and went on to launch ROC-United.
Over the last ten years, we have won more than 13 workplace justice campaigns, winning more than $7 million in misappropriated tips and wages and discrimination payments for low-wage workers, and significant policy changes in high-profile fine dining restaurant companies covering thousands of workers.
We have partnered with more than 100 responsible restaurant owners to promote the ‘high road’ to profitability, and to trained more than 4500 restaurant workers to advance to livable wage jobs within the industry.
We have also published fifteen ground-breaking reports on the restaurant industry, obtaining significant media coverage, played an instrumental role in winning a statewide minimum wage increase for tipped workers, and initiated other policy campaigns at the local, state, and federal level.
We have organized restaurant workers to open their own cooperatively-owned restaurants in New York and Detroit.
Since January 2008 we have launched affiliates in New Orleans, Miami, Michigan, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington, DC. In each region, we conduct workplace justice campaigns, partner with ‘high road’ restaurants to conduct advance restaurant workforce development programs, and collaborate with local academics and other allies to produce comprehensive participatory research and policy initiatives.
Nationally, we organize national convenings of restaurant workers, Congressional briefings, public fora, and more. In these ways, ROC continues to build power and voice for low-wage restaurant workers at the local, state, and federal levels.