The ugly civil war between two quasi-union workers centers gets uglier


By Eric Boehm |

Like all good political theater does sooner or later, this fight could end up in court.

The Restaurant Opportunity Center of New York, a workers’ center fighting for better wages and working condition in restaurants in the Big Apple, says they have been subject to a hostile takeover from by the Restaurant Opportunity Center United, a similar labor-organizing nonprofit that operates at the national level, which is seeking to take over the New York organization and force a merger against the wishes of ROC-NY leadership.

According to a statement issued by leaders of ROC-NY on Tuesday, they have been threatened with a lawsuit by ROC-United.

“ROC-United has not only threatened to sue ROC-NY for our name and to set up a rival organization, but it has also implied that a merger occurred in a letter to its funders, allies and staff,” said the board of directors of ROC-NY in the joint statement.

As we detailed earlier in the week, ROC-NY was one of the first workers centers in the nation. That model was used to launch ROC-United in 2007, which has gone on to spawn numerous city-level organizations around the country.

But like Claudius, the younger sibling is now seeking to push the older one from power.

The whole thing seems to boil down to a disagreement over how the nascent workers center movement should proceed. The leaders of ROC-NY want to keep local, grassroots control over operations, while the leadership of ROC-United is seeking a centralized organization with closer ties to labor unions and other, more traditional forms of organized labor.

Maria Myotte, national communications director for ROC-United, said in a statement last week that the “unification process” brought ROC-NY staff and members into ROC-United and was successfully completed.

“A few New York staff members decided not to join the merger,” Myotte said. “We have told them that if they wish to continue their work, they will have to form their own new organization which will not be affiliated with ROC.”

Leaders of ROC-NY say that’s not the case.

“The majority of ROC-NY’s staff is still here with us, including our executive director, and they are continuing to operate our programs,” the ROC-NY board said Tuesday. “While we are sad about the recent events between ROC-NY and ROC-United and the confusion it has caused our members and supporters, we want to make clear that ROC-NY did not merge with ROC-United.”

The leaders of ROC-NY note that any merger between organizations in New York State takes months, perhaps years to complete. They say staff from ROC-United tried to expedite the process, in violation of state law, and ROC-NY is so far refusing to go along for the ride.

Category: Labor relations, National, News, Hamlet, labor, labor relations, Lawsuit, New York, Restaurant Opportunity Center, ROC, ROC United, ROC-NY, unions, workers centers