Alameda and San Francisco counties have more than 200,000 restaurant workers, making the restaurant industry one of the fastest-growing sectors of the regional economy. However, women, immigrants and people of color restaurant workers (like those in the rest of the country) face significant barriers, including pervasive discriminatory hiring, promotion and disciplinary practices.
Founded in 2013, Restaurant Opportunities Center Bay Area (ROC The Bay) is dedicated to improving the working conditions in the restaurant industry by building power and voice for restaurant workers. ROC the Bay is the newest affiliate of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United, which was initially founded after September 11, 2001, to provide support to restaurant workers displaced as a result of the World Trade Center tragedy.
Since then ROC United has grown into a national restaurant workers’ organization with close to 10,400 members in 19 states. ROC has also trained more than 1,000 restaurant workers to find good jobs and advance within the industry; published several ground-breaking reports, including “The Great Service Divide: Occupational Segregation and Inequality in the US Restaurant Industry,” an in-depth study of race and gender discrimination in the restaurant industry; and played an instrumental role in winning a statewide minimum wage increase for tipped workers.
In 2012, based on demands for help from workers in the Bay Area, ROC United created a volunteer restaurant worker committee with approximately 20 restaurant workers in the region. In 2013, due to overwhelming community support, ROC-United launched ROC the Bay into a full-fledged affiliate.
In the Bay Area, a recent study found that nearly one in three restaurant workers suffers from “food insecurity”—meaning they regularly have trouble obtaining adequate nourishment, usually because they can’t afford it. ROC the Bay builds power and support for restaurant workers in Alameda and San Francisco counties through a combination of comprehensive research, workforce development, and policy advocacy grounded in community partnerships. Using a variety of strategies to help low-wage workers advance to living wage jobs, ROC the Bay, simultaneously works to improve job quality for all Bay Area restaurant workers.
ROC the Bay is moving toward creating a strong restaurant worker movement for the Bay Area. Recent accomplishments of ROC the Bay include the launch of the CHOW job-training program to help low-wage restaurant workers progress in their careers, which has trained 84 workers. ROC the Bay also has successfully advocated for the inclusion of tipped workers in Berkeley’s minimum-wage fight, and joined Santa Clara County Wage Theft Task Force to bring visibility to wage theft in the restaurant industry and galvanize restaurant workers in the South Bay.