House questions Labor Department support of pesky activist group

Eshe Nelson Contributor
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The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is inquiring into the Department of Labor’s support for the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a non-profit with a reputation for harassing diners at New York City eateries, the New York Post reported.

The ROC was founded in New York after Sept. 11, 2001 in response to the tragedy that also left many restaurant workers unemployed. The organization says its mission “to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low-wage restaurant workforce.”

Since its founding, the organization has taken on a greater role of activism, targeting restaurants that it believes have unacceptable safety or workplace conditions.

The ROC demands these restaurants pay a monetary award, and if they don’t, they’re subject to large ROC-organized protests outside the restaurant. Protests have involved harassing customers who attempt to eat there and placing giant inflatable cockroaches outside the restaurant.

In one case, celebrity chef Mario Batali obtained a restraining order against the ROC because of continuous harassment at his New York restaurant.

On Monday, committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis requesting further information on the relationship between the Department of Labor and the ROC.

In 2009, the ROC received a $275,000 grant from the Labor Department through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Susan Harwood program. The stated purpose of the program is to educate restaurant employers and workers on prevention of health and safety hazards, as well as to inform workers of their rights.

The OSHA also formed an alliance with the ROC “to foster safer and more healthful American workplaces” in October 2011.

The ROC operates its own restaurant in New York called COLORS. In his letter, Issa described the restaurant as having “a troubling history of poor sanitation.” COLORS has been reported for serious health and sanitation violations by the NYC Health Department on several occasions.

A representative for the oversight committee told The Daily Caller that this inquiry is not an investigation into the ROC as an organization, and the focus is firmly on understanding why the Department of Labor has built up support for an organization that does not practice what it preaches.

The committee has given until 5 p.m. on July 9 for the Department of Labor to provide information on the “public embracing and strategic alliances” with the ROC.

Over the last decade, the ROC has drawn support from all across the nation, including Hollywood types and wealthy Obama supports such as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, the co-founder of Miramax Films.

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