The Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) is dedicated to winning improved conditions for restaurant workers and raising public recognition of restaurant workers’ contributions to the city. ROC-NY was initially founded after September 11th, 2001 to provide support to restaurant workers displaced as a result of the World Trade Center tragedy, ROC-NY has grown to support restaurant workers all over New York City and advocate for improved working conditions. Over the last five years, they have won nine workplace justice campaigns against exploitative high-profile restaurant companies, obtaining $4,580,000 and improvements in workplace policies for restaurant workers.
CURRENT CAMPAIGN: Dignity at Darden
The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has launched a campaign against Capital Grille and its parent company, Darden Restaurants.
The campaign started at a DC-area Capital Grille restaurant, where workers approached ROC United complaining of racial discrimination – nearly all the black servers at the Chevy Chase, MD Capital Grille were fired and told that they ‘didn’t meet Capital Grille standards.’ The restaurant’s only living-wage jobs, server and bartender positions, are held almost exclusively by white workers. After speaking with more workers, ROC United found that a number of other workers at the restaurant corroborated these problems. The workers’ charges are aimed at the company’s policies and practices, and not at any alleged racism of any individual.
On January 31st, 2012, Capital Grille workers in New York, Chicago, and in the Washington, DC area filed federal litigation against Capital Grille’s parent company Darden for discrimination and wage theft. On February 15th, workers from Capital Grille in Los Angeles joined the struggle. On February 28th, Miami Capital Grille workers also launched their campaign and added their claims to the litigation. Employees at all of the 1,680 Darden Restaurants across America – such as Capital Grille, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden – deserve to be given equal opportunities, to be fully and fairly compensated for their efforts, and to enjoy a safe and healthy workplace.
Why workers are organizing:
- Workers said they were being forced to work through their breaks, off the clock, and overtime without being compensated.
- Tipped workers were made to do non-tipped work while still being paid their lower tipped wage which, in many Darden restaurants, is as low as $2.13/hour.
- Servers complained of having to tip out 4% of gross sales to other workers (even if they were not tipped on all of those sales!).
- Workers said they were made to take on additional positions – servers are also food runners, dishwashers are janitors and window cleaners – without receiving any additional compensation.
- Workers hours in the back of the house are being cut but at the same time, they are being forced to take on more work
- Workers complained of unfairness and discrimination in application of disciplinary procedures
- ROC-United found that paths to promotions were closed for many workers of color
ROC-United is asking that the company sit down and meet with ROC-United and the workers to resolve the workers’ concerns in a meaningful manner.