Rent-a-mob protesters get paid to get angry
By Mike ParanzinoNY Post
December 5, 2013 | 12:19am
These are busy — and profitable — times for rent-a-mobs. Just days after Black Friday protests against Walmart stores, many of the same agitators will be out again on Thursday protesting at fast-food restaurants in New York City and across the country.
We’re all supposed to pretend these are “organic” worker “uprisings” against exploitative employers; in fact, they’re all bankrolled by Big Labor and its allies.
At the forefront of this perpetual protest machine is New York’s Restaurant Opportunities Center, the union-founded “worker center” infamous for its protest shakedowns of nonunion restaurants.
ROC and the union-backed OUR Walmart held a joint “political education session” in Miami the week before Thanksgiving, and ROC’s co-director protested on Black Friday with OUR Walmart last year, but the coming fast-food protests fit better with ROC’s restaurant focus.
In fact, ROC pioneered this model: A union front group organizes as a nonprofit “worker center,” which lets it skirt federal labor laws that set reasonable limits on union protests. A novel idea when it launched in New York in 2002, ROC is now one of hundreds of worker centers nationwide, including SEIU-backed groups with names like Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15. ROC itself has expanded to over 30 cities, with reported plans for a new, SEIU-funded chapter in Seattle.The demonstrations help unions create the illusion of public support for their agenda — to suggest that lots of people are angry enough to protest. In fact, the protesters often get paid
The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that unions can give out $50 gift cards as enticement to those who join anti-Walmart protests on Black Friday. In Seattle, the SEIU reportedly paid workers $75 to participate in previous fast-food protests, enough for weeks of lunches off the Value Menu.
Of course, having Washington, DC-based unions paying protesters orchestrated by union front groups like ROC certainly undermines the “grassroots” narrative so carefully promoted by these groups. Fast-food workers trying to make ends meet are a sympathetic bunch, but most people start to feel like manipulated suckers when they realize this “movement” is as spontaneous as a scene from the Kardashians
Multiple congressional investigations are looking into just how smelly it all is. The House Education and the Workforce Committee has demanded that the Labor Department produce the documents it used in determining that ROC should be exempt from labor-law disclosures under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. The same committee is separately demanding HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reveal how ROC managed to get named an ObamaCare navigator in New York. (ROC withdrew as a navigator just days after the program launched.)
And the House Oversight Committee has inquired of the Labor Department why it provided taxpayer funds to ROC despite ROC’s “intimidation of opponents” and “management problems” at its own failed Manhattan restaurant, Colors.
Explaining why he and some other restaurateurs sometimes ally with ROC, Tom Colicchio of Craft (and “Top Chef”) memorably conveyed the ugly truth: “What’s the alternative? Having a 12-foot cockroach in front of your restaurant?”Fortunately for New Yorkers, Thursday’s protests will likely resemble the August demonstrations by the same cast of characters, and be short and relatively harmless — just long enough for the media to gets its photo-ops and perhaps for the protesters to score their gift cards
Then ROC can declare a victory for the workers, and New Yorkers can get on with lunch.