Restaurant Workers Group to Unveil Bias Study

By Staff Report

Mar. 27, 2009

The city’s most vocal advocate for restaurant workers—Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York—will issue its third major report on the restaurant industry in New York City.

On Tuesday, March 31, the group will unveil the findings of a study titled “Discrimination in Manhattan’s Top Restaurants Deny People of Color and Women Equal Access to Employment Opportunities.”

Among the prominent New Yorkers set to attend the event are New York City Council Members Rosie Mendez and John Liu, as well as Ed Ott, executive director of the New York City Central Labor Council.

The announcement will be made at celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak restaurant.

“Craft is one of the restaurants we really support,” said Rekha Eanni, co-director of ROC NY.

Unlike its two previous studies, which looked at wage and discrimination issues in all types of restaurants, the upcoming report focuses on fine dining restaurants exclusively. ROC NY is basing its findings on interviews with employees at 181 top eateries in Manhattan.

The 2,200-member organization was born in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, launched by a group of workers from Windows on the World who wanted to help colleagues find jobs. It has since evolved into an advocacy group for all restaurant workers in the city.

During the past seven years, ROC NY has played a central role in legal complaints against such restaurateurs as Daniel Boulud, Shelley Fireman and Alan Stillman, alleging labor law violations involving discrimination and wages. In total, ROC NY has won $4.5 million in settlements from these restaurateurs.

In the past year, the nonprofit’s co-founder, Saru Jayaraman, formed ROC United and has quietly opened satellite offices in five cities, including Chicago and New Orleans.

Like the original ROC NY, these branches provide employment training, promote improved working conditions for restaurant workers and conduct research on the industry.

The Detroit office, for example, opened in June and has 260 members. In total, the outposts have more than 1,000 members and a pair of full-time staffers at each location. They are funded by private donors.

“The coming-out for these other offices will be later this year and next, when they issue reports and research,” Jayaraman says.

Filed by Arleen Jacobius of Pensions & Investments, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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