Restaurant Opportunities Center-Philadelphia

Restaurant Opportunities Center Philadelphia (ROC Philly) is the Philadelphia affiliate of Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), a movement of restaurant workers combining to improve their wages and other working conditions.
Sam Jones, Lead Policy Organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia, says, “Restaurant Opportunities Centers United was formed in New York shortly after 9-11 (the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001) and at 9-11 there was a restaurant called Windows On The World, on top of the World Trade Center. Of course, when the planes hit, everyone who was working that day lost their lives. Seventy-two workers perished in that tragedy, and so ROC was formed initially as a support group for the grieving families, and for those workers who were not scheduled for (that) shift that day.”
The owners of the restaurant, said Jones, “opened a new restaurant and then refused to rehire any of those former employees. When they were employed at Windows On The World, it was very progressive; it was union jobs, paying well above standards. The owners then opened a restaurant and scrapped that system in favor of what we would call ‘the low road,’ meaning they were hiring their servers at the ‘tipped minimum wage,’ which is, federally, $2.13 an hour.”
The restaurant workers, said Jones, “began to realize a lot of the issues they were discussing were endemic in the entire restaurant industry. They started bringing in more folks from New York, and eventually, over the course of fourteen to fifteen years, opened ROC affiliates in ten cities across the country.” The Philadelphia branch of ROC organized, said Jones, about four years ago.
One of ROC’s national goals, said Jones, is to eliminate the tipped minimum wage, which, in Pennsylvania, “is $2.83 an hour, and has been frozen at that level for eighteen years. A lot of studies indicate that, because of that low tipped minimum wage, servers are three times more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment, because this is something they feel they have to put up with in order to feed their families. Tipped workers are three to four times more likely to have to depend on subsidies from the federal government, (such as) subsidized insurance, Food Stamps, and other programs, because even including the tip, the average tipped worker is making somewhere under eight dollars an hour.
“The Restaurant Association,” says Jones, “likes to trot out a server in a fine steakhouse or four-star restaurant to say they don’t want any increase in the tipped minimum wage, they’re perfectly capable of making eighty or a hundred-twenty thousand a year. That is actually true for a tiny percentage of workers who work in these steakhouses, and in a city the size of Philadelphia, you’re talking about a handful of restaurants. That would be the four-star or five- star restaurants where the meals are going to run fifty to eighty dollars per meal per person. However, the servers in those restaurants that make that kind of money are predominantly white and predominantly male. “
The typical tipped worker, said Jones, works in what are called “fast casual dining” restaurants, “your IHOPs, your Olive Gardens, your Red Lobsters, and these are the workers who are making barely above minimum wage, with tips included. So our focus is to eliminate the tipped minimum wage, and bring it up to a full minimum wage, so that these workers are able to support themselves and feed their families.“
As for the scope of their organizing, Jones said, “We focus primarily on service restaurants where there is actually a server. We are closely aligned with the Fight For $15 movement with fast food workers, and it is our position that the minimum wage should be $15.00, and that should be the floor for tipped workers as well. So we are closely aligned, but we primarily work with workers in sit-down service restaurants where folks are actually served by a server.
ROC Philly is not a traditional labor union, added Jones: “We generally do not focus on organizing workers in a union sense, unless those workers come to us with a particular grievance, and want to organize inside their restaurant. It’s difficult to organize across a stratum of restaurants, because (a particular restaurant) would have to be organized on an individual basis.
“The ruling with McDonald’s has made that simpler,” added Jones. “There was a ruling that McDonald’s franchisees are not singular owners, but that the McDonald’s corporation controls them, so they can organize on a nationwide or even an international basis. That should apply to restaurants like the Darden Corporation, which is the largest employer of tipped workers in the world.” (Darden is the parent company of Olive Garden, Capitol Grille, Bahama Breeze, and several others.)
“We’re not focused on traditional union organizing per se,” added Jones, “we’re focused on professionalizing an industry and getting rid of the inequities I had previously discussed.” A report published by ROC on the tipped minimum wage, he said, shows “the whole concept of tipping in America comes out of the end of slavery. It actually came out of slavery ending and certain folks not wanting to pay the newly-freed slaves, targeting specifically the restaurant industry and the Pullman (sleeping car) industry. The Pullman car workers were able to organize the first Black union in the United States, and they were able to demand a wage. Tipped workers in the restaurant industry were not as fortunate, because the restaurant industry isn’t one particular industry, or one particular owner, it’s spread out from the mom and pops to the Darden (corporation) type of restaurants, a chain across the entire country. So these workers were never able to organize as a union, therefore they were powerless to fight against the concept of the sub-minimum wage.”
What is ROC’s strategy for eliminating the tipped minimum wage in Pennsylvania? “What we’re doing is a multi-pronged approach,” said Jones, “we are part of the Raise The Wage PA Coalition, and part of the platform for (the coalition) is total elimination of the tipped minimum wage, so we’re working through our partner organizations to achieve that end.” ROC Philly has also worked with the Women’s Law Project in drafting a stand-alone one-wage bill calling for complete elimination of the tipped minimum wage.
“On the legislative end,” added Jones, “we have been working with a number of state senators. Senator Dalyn Leach has a bill for a $15.00 minimum wage, with complete elimination of the tipped minimum wage. Senator Tina Tartaglione introduced a bill for $10.10, with the tipped minimum wage rising to seventy percent. We’re already scheduling meetings with Tartaglione, she’s indicated she’s thinking of moving to $15.00, and she has been talking with us about elimination of the tipped minimum wage. She understands now the strategy of doing that. If she on any other person was to introduce a bill going to seventy or seventy-five percent or what have you, it was our fear that the way the Pennsylvania state legislature works, it would be another ten or twelve years before we have a shot at total elimination of the tipped minimum wage. So we’ve been talking to her office, and also with Representative Patty Kim, about a phase-in of complete elimination of the tipped minimum wage. That’s the way we’re going about that here in Pennsylvania.”
Public Demonstrations have also been a ROC strategy, said Jones adding, “We took a group of tipped workers from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to the office of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, which is a lobbying group that that has so far been chiefly responsible for a lower tipped minimum wage, and we had an action there to demand they rescind their support for a $2.83 tipped minimum wage. So we’re putting pressure on some of the lobby groups that support big business and try to repress the minimum wage.
“We are organizing on a national level,” added Jones, “ROC Pennsylvania has offices here in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh. It is our long-term strategy to organize many thousands of restaurant workers to achieve this legislative victory. Obviously we’re looking at the federal government and also working in the states where we’re active. We’re looking to build a base of multiple thousands of tipped workers.”
How does ROC plan to build this organization, and how do they handle the turnover in leaders and activists? “As with any organization,” said Jones, “the building process is working with our current members, and to expand our base. We have members come to us for various services, such as our channel program, which is our training program for front-of-the-house (employment) and bartending, and we include a political education piece in our training, so that’s one way we have members come in.
“We have other members,” added Jones, “come in with legal or other issues with restaurants, and they self-organize workers, and then of course we’re meeting workers on a daily basis and educating them about some of these issues, so those are several of the ways we’re increasing membership.
“With turnover,” added Jones, “with any organization, you’re going to have turnover. Our chief issue with turnover is those activist members who come in and eventually leave the restaurant industry altogether. A lot of members have been long-term members over the course of the entire four years we’ve been in existence in Philadelphia, and longer in other areas where ROC offices were open prior to the one here in Philadelphia.”
ROC Philadelphia, said Jones, get financial support from the Ford Foundation, the Sam Fels Foundation, and the Bread and Roses Community Fund; “We rely on charitable foundations locally and on the national level. We’re not particularly affiliated with unions; we work in consort with union as far as the Fight for $15, which is essentially SEIU-funded.”
Calvin Okunoye, the High Road Coordinator for ROC Philly, said that ROC started in Philadelphia in 2011, “from a local organizer and a pastry chef, a woman who worked in the industry for many years. I started a year or two after (the formation).” ROC, said Okunoye, has been part of the coalition in Philadelphia to advocate for paid sick days, and nationally, ROC has started a national employer network, which is our alternative to the National Restaurant Association. The organization is called RAISE, Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards and Employment.”
Jones explains one of ROC’s programs, the “High Road of Profitability:” “We look at the restaurant industry and our role in it as a way to improve the industry. One of the ways we do that is working with restaurant owners who are doing progressive things in support of workers, things like going above and beyond the absolute minimums required by that particular state. These restaurants are doing such things as paying above the tipped minimum wage, (or) if they provide paid sick days for employees, things like fair scheduling, there are a number of different criteria a restaurant can have in order to become a partner.
“What we’re doing,” added Jones, “is creating an alternative to the National Restaurant Association, (which) is principally funded by such corporations as Disney and Darden Corporation, which is the largest employer of tipped workers in the country. Darden is the parent company of Olive Garden, Capitol Grille, and four or five other restaurant (chains). Those major corporations are putting pressure on the National Restaurant Association to keep standards as low as possible, and as harmful to workers as possible.” Restaurants RAISE, said Jones, “is an association of restaurant owners (organized) to counter some of that.”
ROC Philadelphia took part in the movement for paid sick leave for restaurant workers, in coalition with the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), the Women’s Law Project, Community Legal Services, and the Sheller Center at Temple University Law School. In February 12, 2015, Mayor Michael Nutter signed the paid sick leave bill passed by City Council, which stated that companies with ten or more employees must grant their employees one hour of sick time for each forty hours they worked in the City of Philadelphia, up to a maximum of forty hours a year.
Jones said ROC Philadelphia has the “availability” to teach English as a Second Language, which was “a result of ROC United, and that it’s utilized a lot more in Los Angeles than it is here (in Philadelphia). We have the availability to teach English as a Second language principally for our Spanish-speaking members. We have not had a class yet this year, but we’re trying to gather enough students to provide a class this year.
“None of us speaks Spanish well enough,” added Jones, “for us to recruit Spanish members, so that happens almost on a secondary basis where a dual-language speaker will become a member and talk to other Spanish-speaking workers at their particular location.”
ROC Philly also provides such services for its members as classes in fine dining services, bartending, resume writing and job placement; “Know Your Rights” training sessions; leadership development and organizing training; urging restaurant workers to join a restaurant worker policy committee to improve conditions in the industry; legal referrals; and meeting restaurant workers throughout the city.
ROC United published a research paper, “Darden’s Decision,” on the mistreatment of workers in the restaurants of the Darden Corporation; Darden is the parent company of the restaurant chains Bahama Breeze, Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. Problems in the Darden restaurants have included wage theft, racial discrimination, low wages, and no paid sick leave; and Darden has actively lobbied to keep wage standards down, hiring a lobbyist from the tobacco industry. The ROC report concludes that there are alternatives the company could use, which would protect the company’s brand, reduce costs in high turnover in employment, and increase productivity.
Darden, the report says, does not allow its employees any paid sick leave, and so they would have to work while sick and infect their coworkers and customers; workers complained of the company threatening to fire them if they took any unpaid sick time. An Olive Garden server in North Carolina had to work while suffering from Hepatitis A, and customers filed a class-action lawsuit and news articles were written on food safety and contagious diseases at Olive Garden.
Darden has paid their employees at the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, and has demoted some of their employees; Darden has also been forced by the Department of Labor to repay $100,000 in back wages and fines for wage and hour violations, and has paid $14 million as settlement for claims of wage theft.
To decrease costs, Darden has decreased wages and increased workloads of its workers, such as assigning servers to work four tables a shift from three; and ordered servers to shares a portion of their tips with bartenders and bussers, whose wages Darden cut by half. Darden has also demoted many of their senior waitstaff to “service assistants.” The increase in workloads on individual workers has created unsafe working conditions; workers have said they cut or burned themselves accidentally due to time pressures, thus threatening their health and the health of customers.
The Darden group has been charged and fines numerous times by the US Department of Labor for wage theft; an Olive Garden and a Red Lobster in Texas ordered their workers to clock in when customers were seated, not at the start of their shift, thus reducing the time they were paid for. Workers in Capital Grilles in went to federal court in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Maryland and Miami complaining of wage violations. Over 20,000 workers in Red Lobsters and Oliver Gardens in California filed a class action lawsuit stating the company would not allow them breaks, violating of that state’s labor law.
Darden has been accused of racial discrimination; employees have complained of being denied promotions and other advancement, and employees of color complained of being hired when the restaurant opened, then discharged after the restaurant was established. Non-white workers have charged Darden with denying them opportunities of advancement and of actively discriminating against them. A lawsuit of 37 Black employees, filed in 2008, of a Bahama Breeze restaurant in Ohio charged that managers harassed them with racial slurs.
Darden has been highly profitable, and has paid its CEO $8.5 million in 2011; but the company has lobbied against increase in the minimum wage and for tax breaks, and has hired a lobbyist for the tobacco industry to handle its government relations.
ROC United’s report on Darden offers to the company a “high road” alternative policy towards its employees, such as paying workers a living wage; with this living wage, the report concludes, Darden employees would feel appreciated by the company, and therefore reduces turnover costs.
“Behind The Kitchen Door: the Hidden reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industry” is the title of a report published by ROC Philadelphia and ROC United, in collaboration with the Keystone Research Center. The report shows that in Philadelphia’s restaurant industry, racial discrimination exists; workers of color are relegated to lower-paying positions, while white employees work in the better-paid positions. Many workers who are sick still feel they have to work or lose their jobs, or else they have no sick time; therefore they expose their coworkers and customers to sickness.
The report urged the Philadelphia restaurant industry to take the ‘high road” and pay its employees high livable wages and provide sick leave, ensure adequate levels of staffing, and provide equal opportunities for advancement; and from that, turnover costs would be lowered, due to not having to keep training new workers and older workers would remain.
On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, ROC Philly joined with other activist groups, such as the Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP), Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER, a coalition of religious congregations), for a demonstration in front of the Interstate Blood Bank on North Broad Street.
Sam Jones explained the demonstration: “This is,” he said, “part of our effort in conjunction with our association with the Raise The Wage PA Coalition. We’re a coalition partner, and this is a demonstration to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to at least $15.00 an hour over time, and of course eliminating the tipped minimum wage, which is $2.83 an hour.” The reason the Interstate Blood Bank was selected as a site for the demonstration, said Jones, was, “That was a coalition decision, and that’s to highlight the fact that there are working people who sometimes have to sell blood in order to pay their bills if they’re making just the minimum wage.”
At the demonstration was Valerie Erwin, a former restaurant owner: “For twelve years, I was a restauranteur in Philadelphia,” she said. “Before that I was a cook and a chef, where you sometimes get minimum wage, but at least a wage that you can count on. For front-of-the-house workers, the tipped minimum wage is $2.83 cents an hour, and I felt a lot of outrage about that in different ways, as a worker and as an owner. As a worker, if you were in a high-end restaurant, servers often out-earn the cooks by a lot of money, but not necessarily doing more work because they got paid based on the size of the check. But for most tipped workers, they don’t work in high-end restaurants, they make $2.83, and whatever else they make is completely arbitrary, and they can’t count on it from week to week.
“At ROC” added Erwin, “we not only want to raise the basic minimum wage to a living wage that gives value for the labor that people in restaurants provide, but also to eliminate the tipped minimum wage, so that servers know what they’re going to make, so that they are paid by their employers and not by the people they serve, so that what they make is not arbitrary. As an owner who came from the back of the house, I desperately wanted to get rid of the tipping system, but there was no way for me to do that as a small restaurant and have competitive prices. I think there are a lot of restaurateurs who would like to get rid of tipping, if everybody got rid of tipping, and if they didn’t have to be an outlier. So that’s why we’re asking the legislators to raise the minimum wage , and to get rid of the sub-par tipped minimum wage.”
Erwin discussed her restaurant, which, she said, “I had for twelve years in Philadelphia that served food from the Low Country, which is the coast and islands off South Carolina and Georgia, called Geechee Girl Rice Café. Geechees are the descendants of the enslaved Africans who lived in that area.” In her experience running the restaurant, she said, “I was always in a position where I wished I could pay my employees more, but also I would tell people that everybody who worked for me, without exception, made more money than I made. I paid people as much as I could, but not as much as what I would have liked to.
“Part of the problem,” added Erwin, “is that we are so used to cheap food in this country, and if you’re a small business it’s very hard to pay really comfortable wages without having to raise your prices to a point that people are probably not willing to pay for them. I think it more reflects the true cost of food.”
Erwin said that she has been active in ROC Philly for about a year and a half, “after I closed my restaurant,” she said, “because I was interested in social justice in the hospitality industry, and I knew (ROC) was doing it. I had helped some people who had helped me map out the next steps of my life, and Yvonne Deutsch, who was the dean of the culinary program at Drexel, told me about ROC, and I didn’t know then that ROC had a branch in Philadelphia. So that was right after I closed, that was in 2015.”
Large chains of restaurants, like the Darden group, have been driving down the tipped minimum wage; “I think,” said Erwin, “they managed to keep down the wages of all workers.” In restaurants, she added, “workers in the kitchen don’t make very much money either. The National Restaurant Association is one of the big lobbyists that keeps (the tipped wage) where it is.” The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Hotel Association, she added, has “a vested interest in keeping the tipped wage below the minimum wage.” Erwin worked in the kitchens of fine dining restaurants in New York, she added, and “people on the floor made a lot more money than people in the kitchen, because they take a tip based on how much they sell, and many prices are high. I didn’t like it on that basis that those people got paid more than the people I worked with got paid, and I didn’t like it on a philosophical basis, just as your employer is responsible for unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, they should be responsible for your wage. It’s very hard as one small independent restauranteur to fight that system, because it’s hard to bring the public along with you. There’s an almost insurmountable psychological barrier to raising your prices twenty-five per cent.”
The way to raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers, Erwin added, would be “to try to put pressure on the legislature, which you do by direct action. There are a couple of ways that pressure can be put on legislators. Advocacy groups like ROC lobby representatives to get alliances for ROC’s issues like One Fair Wage and raising the minimum wage. Individuals can also contact their local lawmakers. Letters, emails and especially phone calls to state and federal representatives can do a lot to sway their votes.”
Saru Jayaraman, Co-founder and Co-Director of restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) wrote a book about the movement, Forked 2016, New York, Oxford University Press). Jayaraman writes of the more than eleven million Americans working in the restaurant industry, saying, “Unfortunately, the people who prepare, cook, and serve our food are also twice as likely as other Americans to be on food stamps. The restaurant industry-the industry that feeds us!-is also starving its workforce, both economically and as a civil society that values its citizens.”
But Jayaraman writes of restaurants that take the “high road” of fair treatment of their employees. A study in 2014 conducted by Cornell University, in partnership with ROC, reports that employers could cuts the costs resulting from employee turnover in half by better wages and working conditions; and the restaurant industry has among the highest rates of employee turnover.
Jayaraman writes of the tour for her 2013 book Behind The Kitchen Door, about working conditions in the restaurant industry. During the tour, women would speak to her about such problems they faced in their restaurant jobs, such as sexual harassment; and the idea would come up of a guide of restaurants that pay their workers fairly and have decent working conditions. The ROC Diners’ Guide to Ethical Eating came out for New York in 2007; it now rates 100 of the most popular restaurant chains, and also has a smartphone app. Forked, says Jayaraman, moves forward the process of the guide began of rating restaurant chains on their wages, sick leave policies, and other working conditions.
“The restaurant industry,” says Jayaraman “is one of the only sectors to grow amid the economic crisis of the last decade.” But, she adds, “it is also the absolute lowest-paying employer in the United States.” Annual statistics of wages from the US Department of Labor, says Jayaraman, show that the restaurant industry “wins the prize for having the lowest-paying occupations in the United States.” These wage policies, says Jayaraman, come out of the lobbying efforts of the National Restaurant Association (“the other NRA”), which is dominated by the restaurant chains in the Fortune 500 and has been named “among Congress’s most powerful lobbying groups by Fortune Magazine.” As a result of The Other NRA’s lobbying, Jayaraman writes, “the median hourly wage for all restaurant workers in the United States is a paltry $9.20.”
Tipping servers, says Jayaraman, comes from the grand Tudor homes in England, “where visiting guests were expected to leave gratuities for servants.” This custom, says Jayaraman, spread throughout Europe and was picked up by American travelers. An American anti-tipping movement formed among labor and consumer activists: “it was seen,” says Jayaraman, “as giving certain employers the unfair justification that they should be able to pay their workers little or nothing because they were receiving tips.”
But American railroad and hospitality companies (Jayaraman cites specifically the Pullman company) fought to keep the tipping system in place. “In the late 1800s,” she says, “they argued that they should not have to pay wages to their employees-many of whom were former African-American slaves hired to serve newly industrialized white factory workers in restaurants and traveling Americans on trains-because these workers were earning tips. “ These industries, she writes, wanted “to be able to hire workers and not pay them a wage at all, arguing that their income could come entirely from customers tips,” and this “arose in part from (the) nation’s history of subjugation based on race.”
In Europe, writes Jayaraman, they began to move away from tipping; several Italian hoteliers charged ten to fifteen percent more in lieu of tipping, guests were warned not to tip, and workers receiving gratuities were fired. “In Italy and most of Europe,” she writes, “restaurant workers are considered professionals. There are schools of service throughout Europe that train individuals in the art and skill of hospitality.” It would be an affront, says Jayaraman, to offer a tip to a restaurant worker, just as it would be to tip a doctor or a lawyer.
But in the United States, tipping was enshrined in custom and law. When Congress passed the first minimum wage law as part of the New Deal, the law said that the wage could be obtained through wages directly from the employer or tips from customers, so tipped workers were not guaranteed a base wage from their employers. By 1980, the federal tipped minimum wage was sixty per cent of the overall minimum wage.
In 1996, the National Restaurants Association (“the other NRA”), under the leadership of Harmen Cain, CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and 2012 presidential candidate, urged that the minimum wage for tipped workers be frozen “forevermore,” says Jayaraman, even as the minimum wage rose for all other workers. “Thus,” writes Jayaraman, “the federal minimum wage for tipped works was frozen at $2.13 an hour, and has not increased for more than two decades to the current day.”
Jayaraman pints out the states that demand that restaurants pay their workers the full minimum wage- California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Montana, Alaska, and Minnesota. ROC’s research, says Jayaraman, shows that these states “fare better than the other forty-three on almost every measure the restaurant industry cares about: overall restaurant sales per capita, job growth in the restaurant industry, job growth among tipped workers, and even rates of tipping higher in these seven states.” This is in spite of the restaurant Association’s assertion, says Jayaraman, that if tipped workers “received the full minimum wage from their own employer, customers would stop tipping them.”
But, says Jayaraman, the Restaurant Association has convinced legislators that tipped workers “receive a more than sufficient income through their tips.” 66 percent of the “almost six million tipped workers in America are women,” and a large majority of them work in the casual restaurants like Olive Garden and IHOP. Women in these situations, says Jayaraman, “suffer three times the poverty rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce and use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce.”
Thus, these women working full time still need public assistance; research by ROC has shown that “half of all full-service restaurant workers use public assistance, for a total of $9.5 billion annually, and that the average Olive Garden, for example, costs the taxpayer nearly $200,000 annually in public assistance for workers.”
Sexual harassment is another problem women workers in the restaurant industry face, says Jayaraman. “Dependent on tips,” she writes, “workers must tolerate whatever a customer might do-treatment, touching, and other behavior-to receive their income from that customer rather than form their employer.” Eighty per cent of restaurant workers, says Jayaraman, experienced sexual harassment in their workplace; and in states that have the $2.15 tipped minimum wage, women experienced twice the rate of sexual harassment from customers as they did in states that paid the same minimum wage to tipped and non-tipped workers. Also, adds Jayaraman, women working in states with the tipped minimum wage were ordered by their employers to objectify themselves, by dressing “sexier,” showing more cleavage, or wearing tighter clothing.
ROC has established a rating system, says Jayaraman, in conjunction with the University of North Carolina, University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Georgia, for restaurants on their wages for tipped and non-tipped workers, paid sick leave policies, and promotions and raises in the company. Jayaraman points out that most of the restaurants that received high marks in this rating system are not national chains, and the restaurants receiving low marks are in chains (the exceptions are Chipotle and In-N-Out Burger).
In its work, ROC Philadelphia, as well as ROC United, have combined the tactics of being a resource for restaurant workers, academic-level research into the restaurant industry, legislative lobbying, networking with like-minded groups, public demonstrations, strategic focus on the biggest firms in the industry (like the Darden group) and helping empower restaurant workers, giving them the confidence in their own strength.

Philly for Change

One of the groups I have long been active with is Philly for Change, the Philadelphia branch of Democracy for America, which was founded after the Howard Dean campaign of 2004.

They meet every first Wednesday of the month at the bar-nightclub Tattooed Mom, 5th and South streets in Philadelphia. Tonight, the guests will be Brian Sims, State Representative, who will discuss the state budget issue; Naiymah Sanchez, transgender advocacy coordinator for the ACLU on trans rights; Kate Goodman, of Fight for 15, on the minimum wage issue; and Melissa Robbins of NOW on pay equity.