Statement from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United on May Day

April 30, 2021

Today is May Day. For millions of immigrant workers, it is a reminder that our economy relies undeniably upon their labor. Without immigrants, we will be a country without social, political and economic bearings.

Yet, why don’t we treat immigrant workers better? 

Dr. Sekou Siby, president and CEO of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, issued the following statement about the vital role immigrant workers—many of whom work in the restaurant and service industries—play in our communities.

“We sincerely honor all immigrant workers and their priceless contributions. They are the backbone of our food system: they plant, pick, chop, cook, serve and deliver our food. Of more than 13 million restaurant workers nationwide, according to our soon-to-be-released 2021 State of the Restaurant Workers (SOTRW) national report, nearly 23 percent of them are foreign-born.

“Around 44 percent of the restaurant workforce are Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans. But they are disproportionately subjected to long hours with subminimum wages; work in unpleasant working conditions; carved out of benefits and fend off for themselves, if they are undocumented; and lack basic work protections, such as paid leave and quality healthcare. 

“Sadly, more numbers are abysmal: over 1.5 million restaurant workers still earn as low as $2.13 per hour; about 35 percent of restaurant workers rely on public assistance (food stamps or Medicaid); and nearly 45 percent of restaurant workers live below twice the federal poverty line, barely making ends meet.

“Immigrant workers, however, are continuously building power for equity and fairness. ROC United has helped protect workers’ rights to speak out against labor abuse, challenging policies that perpetuate exploitation, and supporting workers with Know-Your-Rights information to spot employer retaliation.

“On May Day, the ongoing public health and economic crisis is the clarion call for our leaders to see and hear the need for change and put forth common-sense reform to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and provide a national guaranteed paid leave for all restaurant workers.

“ROC United urges that our core values and principles around civil liberties and social justice should guide our commitment to protect immigrant workers’ rights and provide a path to legal status for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

“We’re here to ensure fairness and due process. We’re here to fight for all hard working immigrant workers at every turn.”

Note: For more information on the 2021 State of the Restaurant Workers report, contact Anthony Advincula at