- Last Updated: 11:44 PM, July 4, 2012
- Posted: July 05, 2012
It’s been more than five years since these pages first told you about ROC — the self-styled radical anti-capitalist gang that uses hard-knuckle intimidation to shake down high-profile city restaurants.
Not much happened then, but now ROC has been adopted by the Obama administration and — at long last — someone has decided to investigate.
As The Post’s Carl Campanile reported Tuesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has opened a probe into the activities of the Restaurant Opportunities Center.
And he’s written Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to ask why the controversial group — which has spread to 19 cities — gets federal funding from her agency.
As Issa noted in his letter:
“ROC targets restaurants that it believes have subpar safety or workplace conditions and demands that the restaurants pay a monetary reward.
“When a restaurant resists these demands, ROC organizes large protests outside the restaurant, harasses patrons who want to enter and eat . . . and even places giant inflatable cockroaches outside of the restaurants.”
Back in 2007, The Post first spotlighted ROC, which was founded as a tax-exempt charity after 9/11 to help dislocated workers from Windows on the World, the eatery that once topped one of the Twin Towers.
But ROC is more about intimidation than restaurant workers.
One eatery owner, whose facilities were targeted by ROC for 15 months, wrote how the group stormed the restaurant, armed with loudspeakers, noisemakers and cameras, in the middle of dinner and “demanded that we send them $3 million.”
When he refused to pay up — or to allow ROC, which is not a union, to represent his workers — the group launched regular protests at the establishment.
But then the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the protests were not a legal job action — so ROC changed tactics, calling the protests “prayer vigils.”
Meanwhile, as Issa writes, the group’s own restaurant, Colors, has had “a troubling history of poor sanitation” and “a history of disputes over wages” through the years.
Restaurants that have caved to ROC’s demands have soon found themselves unable to keep doing business.
Like former Windows on the World owner David Emil, who opened a smaller restaurant after 9/11 and was picketed by ROC, which demanded he hire another 35 workers.
He did — and went belly-up soon after.
Others, like celebrity chef Mario Batali, grew tired of ROC’s endless harassment and have tried fighting back.
It’s long past time that an investigative agency took a close look at this group.
Here’s hoping that Chairman Issa and his committee follow through and do the job.Follow @NYPostOpinion