Friday, July 31, 2015

Rocking the ROC on Philadelphia paid sick leave

Not surprisingly, on a day that Philadelphia City Council is holding hearings on a bill mandating paid sick time for companies doing business in the city, my email contains a missive from a group called ROCExposed. ROC stands for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization that advocates for restaurant workers. ROCUnited Philadelphia (ROC-Philly) vigorously backs paid sick leave.

Rocking the ROC on Philadelphia paid sick leave

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In this Friday, Jan. 18 2013 photo, activists hold signs during a rally at New York´s City Hall to call for immediate action on paid sick days legislation in light of the continued spread of the flu. An unusually early and vigorous fluseason is drawing attention to the cause that has both scored victories and hit roadblocks in recent years: mandatory paid sick leave. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Friday, Jan. 18 2013 photo, activists hold signs during a rally at New York's City Hall to call for immediate action on paid sick days legislation in light of the continued spread of the flu. An unusually early and vigorous fluseason is drawing attention to the cause that has both scored victories and hit roadblocks in recent years: mandatory paid sick leave. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Not surprisingly, on a day that Philadelphia City Council is holding hearings on a bill mandating paid sick time for companies doing business in the city, my email contains a missive from a group called ROCExposed. ROC stands for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization that advocates for restaurant workers. ROCUnited Philadelphia (ROC-Philly) vigorously backs paid sick leave.

I carefully read the ROCExposed email and also linked to the ROCExposed website.

Here are my comments, in no particular order.

The ROCExposed web site says that the group is a front for labor unions and is funded by labor unions. If that's true, I say, so what? Lots of advocacy groups are funded by lots of organizations. We've all read the stories about phony grassroots citizens groups that turn out to have their funding from industry trade groups. When there are issues to be debated, advocacy groups will form. It would be nice to know, in all cases, from whence their funding comes. 

It is not a sin for workers to join together to advocate for better lives for themselves. Any one who has been sick and has had to take a day off from work because of it appreciates having paid sick time. No worker would say, `Hey, I'd rather not get paid.' Doesn't it make sense for workers to try to get paid sick time? In Philadelphia, the ROC group led by Fabricio Rodriguez and Andrea Lemoins has been pushing this legislation.

It's also not a question that paid sick time is costly to companies. Is it a sin for companies to join groups like the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association or the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to fight against some of these provisions? I don't think so.

It is interesting that the ROC, which is a type of worker organization, may deliberately structure its enterprise to avoid some of the regulations that unions carry with them. One difference between a union and a "worker organization" is that unions enter into contracts with employers, but worker organizations don't. There are laws governing those contracts and those relationships, just as there are laws governing any number of contract relationships. If ROC is deliberately skirting government regulations, it won't be the only group to have done that. That's why there are lobbyists and lawyers.

The ROCExposed group makes light of ROC research into restaurant conditions. Some of the ROCExposed group's points are well-taken. The ROC research does include much acknowledged and respected government data, but its survey methods are questionable. 

The ROCExposed website talks a lot about Colors, the ROC-run restaurant in New York. I've been there, but I haven't done much reporting on the restaurant or the New York organization.

The website also never identifies who is behind ROCExposed. Why not?

Inquirer Staff Writer
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About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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