Marano Fellows Class of 2012

Name: Cathy Dang

National High Road Coordinator


Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Location: New York, NY
Industry Sector: Restaurant
Type of Organization: Nonprofit Workforce Development

Organizational Background & Mission: Founded initially after September 11th, 2001, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) has grown into a national organization with 9000 low-wage restaurant worker members in nine locations, and growing rapidly. ROC United's mission is to improve the working conditions in the restaurant industry, the third largest industry in the nation. From 2001 until 2008, our work was focused in New York City, and achieved great success in impact for restaurant workers. In summer 2007, ROC-NY hosted the nation’s first national restaurant worker convening, and the national organization, ROC-United, was born in 2008.

We now have affiliates in New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Miami, Michigan, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington, DC. In each region, we conduct workplace justice campaigns, partner with ‘high road’ restaurants to conduct advanced restaurant workforce development programs, and collaborate with local academics and other allies to produce comprehensive participatory research and policy initiatives.

Interest in Sector Work: ROC United has partnered with more than 50 responsible restaurant owners to promote the ‘high road’ to profitability, and trained more than 2500 restaurant workers to advance to livable wage jobs within the industry through our workforce development program. Through the COLORS Hospitality Opportunities for Workers (CHOW) Institute, restaurant workers seeking to advance in the restaurant industry take two courses: Front of the House 101: Introduction to Fine Dining Serving and Front of the House 201: Advanced Fine Dining Serving and Bartending. Upon completion of the two courses, graduates from the CHOW Institute are assisted with soft skills and job placement.

ROC United engages in other sector work through engaging in worker-led campaigns, winning more than $5 million in misappropriated tips and wages and discrimination payments for low-wage workers, and significant policy changes, including training and internal promotions, in high-profile fine dining restaurant companies. We have also published fifteen ground-breaking reports on the restaurant industry, obtaining significant media coverage, played an instrumental role in winning a statewide minimum wage increase for tipped workers, and initiated other policy campaigns at the local, state, and federal level. We have organized restaurant workers to open their own cooperatively-owned restaurants in New York and Detroit.