NYC Restaurant Opportunities Center
By Fekkak Mamdou
Initially founded after September 11th to provide support to displaced immigrant restaurant workers from Windows on the World and other World Trade Center restaurants, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) has grown to organize restaurant workers all over New York City for improved working conditions and greater power in the workplace.
In just two years, ROC-NY has won four different campaigns against abusive restaurant owners, garnering more than $70,000 in back wages and discrimination payments for immigrant workers, as well as signed agreements guaranteeing vacations, sick days, the right to organize, and job security. We have also completed New York's first comprehensive Sector Analysis on the City's restaurant industry, and are introducing legislation into the New York City Council in February 2004 that would protect restaurant workers' rights on the job. Most importantly, we have grown to include more than 700 restaurant worker members from all over the world.
One of our most exciting projects has been our efforts to organize 40 workers displaced from Windows on the World and other World Trade Center restaurants to open their own cooperatively-owned restaurant. The goals of opening this upscale fancy tablecloth restaurant in downtown Manhattan are: to create a model for the industry, to demonstrate to restaurant owners that they can pay their workers well and treat them well and still make profit; and to develop a new group of worker-owners in New York City who could advocate for workers' rights within the New York State Restaurant Association, the owners' lobby, and would testify as owners for worker-beneficial legislation.
For the workers, who hail from more than 20 different countries, it would also serve as a means of the first decent employment they have had since before the September 11th tragedy, and as a legacy to their fallen 73 brothers and sisters at Windows on the World. The restaurant is scheduled to open in August 2004 with an American-International menu, to reflect the extraordinary diversity of the immigrant workers who will own it.
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