Politics

Big Labor’s taxpayer-funded Occupy Restaurant squad

Big Labor's taxpayer-funded Occupy Restaurant squad

Organized labor has been on a steep decline over the past few years, so they’ve hit on a new tactic for flexing union power: a group called the Restaurant Opportunity Center that uses Big Labor and Occupy Wall Street tactics to pressure restaurants into paying high wages.  And guess what?  You fund them.  You don’t have a choice.

Watchdog.org has a report on this new leftist parasite:

Using a combination of federal grants and grants from left-leaning organizations, the Restaurant Opportunity Center, or ROC, is technically a charitable nonprofit and not a union. But their pro-worker messages, anti-employer protests and self-proclaimed goal of organizing service sector employees for the purposes of negotiating higher wages make ROC look and sound much like a labor union.

Some see their tactics as a deliberate attempt to skirt the nation’s labor laws. Only unions elected by a majority of a workplace can negotiate with employers on workers’ behalf, though ROC seems to be doing so in the absence of any election.

But others, including the head of the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for dozens of labor unions, see ROC and groups like them as the new face of labor organizing in America.

Who needs elections?  You’ll be told what you want, and then professionally-organized agitators will demand it for you, funded by a raid on the taxpayers.  According to Watchdog.org, the ROC sucked down $240,000 in federal grants in 2010 and 2011.  That’s only about 5 percent of their funding; the rest comes from lefty think-tanks like the Tides Foundation.  Which also get federal taxpayer subsidies.  Only mosquitoes are better at numbing the host before they insert their feeding tubes and begin sucking blood.

Here’s a taste of what you’re compelled to finance, at gunpoint.  (If you find that characterization harsh, try underpaying your taxes this year, and explain you’re holding back the money that would have gone to liberal groups you disagree with.)

The group employs disruptive “mic-check” tactics made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Take ROC’s July 25 action at the Capital Grille restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

On that day,  during the usual lunch rush, a signal was given — and more than a dozen protesters stood at their tables and shouted their concerns to all within earshot.  They were calling attention to what they said was an unfair minimum wage law that allows restaurants in New York City to pay their tipped workers only $5 per hour.

“Capital Grille, shame on you. Restaurant workers deserve fair pay too,” they chanted as they were escorted from the dining area.

It wasn’t only happening in New York.

At the same time, a similar group gathered outside an Olive Garden restaurant in center city Philadelphia.

“If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace,” they chanted in unison.

If that sounds confusing, remember that “justice” now means giving organized left-wing groups whatever they want, regardless of economic logic, or even the law.  The whole point of these “living wage” protesters is to extend the penumbra of collectivist power beyond what the law actually says.  The law stipulates a minimum wage, and whatever you think of its current value, you can appreciate that minimum wage increases are proposed, debated, and passed by the peoples’ representatives in Congress.  But now there’s a movement launched by a small, loud, well-organized movement that thinks it knows what the minimum wage really should be, and it seeks to impose that policy upon businesses it has targeted.

As noted above, this is not “collective bargaining,” because the process of voting a union into place is discarded.  And even if it was properly organized and scrutinized as union activity, the restaurants in question might very well decide not to hire the people demanding $15 an hour or more, for jobs worth only half that amount.  That’s when a more robust application of compulsive force would come into play, as the people demanding higher wages sought to enforce a monopoly on labor, lashing out at “scabs” willing to work for less.  That’s another way of saying that prospective employees are not allowed to decide they will work for less.  It doesn’t sound like much gentle, reasoned persuasion is being directed at employers during these Occupy Restaurant demonstrations.

Here’s how Saru Jayaraman, a co-founder of the group, explained its methodology in a 2007 interview: “While a union has to go in and organize the majority of a shop to get some kind of collective bargaining agreement, in our case we’ll have a group of workers come in … a small number from a restaurant, and we will ‘organize’ them to create a demand letter, eventually file litigation, protest in front of the restaurant and get press.”

Big Labor, which has been running into trouble attracting members or organizing workforces in the New Normal of high unemployment, slow economic growth, and higher government-mandated labor costs, loves this clever effort to subvert the laws that have long annoyed them:

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for dozens of major labor unions, praised Jayaraman and ROC in June during his comments at a gathering of the Labor Research Action Network in Washington, D.C.

“The Restaurant Opportunity Center has built a dynamic and expanding advocacy organization in an industry where 40 percent of the workers earn the minimum wage or less,” he said. “Saru is a real pioneer who is demanding answers to the questions that need to be asked about the future of workers.”

The AFL-CIO has entered into partnership agreements with several national networks of worker centers and created a procedure under which dozens of worker centers have affiliated with state federations of labor and central labor councils. Trumka said labor unions and work activists should try to “thicken those ties” in coming years.

It doesn’t matter what the law says, or what information was considered by our representatives in Congress when they deliberated each proposed increase to the minimum wage.  Trumka and his allies have decided that paying the legal minimum wage to a certain percentage of your workforce is wrong.  They’ll get back to you on what the acceptable percentage of minimum wage workers should be, and how much everyone else should be paid.  Be prepared for frequent changes in both of those extra-legal specifications.

If these efforts at non-union labor organizing succeed, the result would be a greatly diminished restaurant industry with fewer employees.  Positions would be dissolved in order to keep payroll costs under control.  Increased costs would be passed along to customers, who would patronize the more expensive restaurants less, killing off a number of locations.  Maybe the union bosses figure the resulting subdued industry would be easier to formally organize.

Restaurants have been the source of much of the job growth during Barack Obama’s transformation of America into a part-time nation of waiters and waitresses.  The carefully massaged headline unemployment statistics have hidden a steady loss of full-time jobs from higher-paying sectors of the workforce, replaced by food service, retail, and temporary work.  A successful effort to artificially inflate the effective minimum wage would kill the goose that’s been laying these fools-gold eggs.  But no amount of failure and economic devastation will ever dissuade those who believe they can set the value of labor more wisely than free people engaged in voluntary commerce.  A great deal of our decaying, politicized economy rests on the false premise that the value of labor can be assigned, rather than negotiated.  What we’re seeing from unions and their auxiliaries contains far too much compulsion to be considered a “negotiation.”

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