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The ACORN of the Restaurant Industry




Restaurant Opportunities Centers in action.

Republican legislators in Michigan have a new target, the Michigan Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC). Apparently at the behest of industry lobbyists, GOP Representative Joe Haveman proposed limiting the funding of public universities that allow their students to get internship credits for working with ROC.

The cause is rather specific: a few interns participated in a picket line outside Andiamo, an Italian restaurant in Dearborn, near Detroit. Workers had sought to get paid overtime and get the owner to stop making them pay for their uniforms, among other demands. The company’s response (alleged surveillance and intimidation) led to several NLRB charges and a AFL-CIO sponsored boycott. The good news is, the dispute was settled back in May, 2011. The protests in question occurred back in 2009 and 2010.

As this blog post shows, restaurant industry folks weren’t too pleased, and thus the proposed new rule. The governor’s not in favor, and the proposal is not in the budget being considered in the state senate, so this may blow over, but it’s generating a bit of news among the academic set, who for some reason see the attempt to link $5 million in funding to the political activities of a few students as an infringement on academic freedom.

We here at LAANE have hosted an intern or two in our day, a fact we should perhaps keep quiet. Increasingly interning is a job requirement (and a source of free labor, though if you’d like justice for LAANE interns, you can donate here).

The best, and perhaps most telling, part of the argument is the quote from Justin Winslow, VP of the Michigan Restaurant Association (the group that is pushing the argument). He calls ROC “the ACORN of the Restaurant industry.”

ROC-United was created in New York, but there are chapters in a number of major cities, including Los Angeles, should you want to get involved.

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