Restaurant Opportunities Center – MN
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Term: 2 years
“The centering of workers’ perspectives has allowed ROC-MN to achieve real, measurable, and, most significantly, perpetual improvements in the industry. A key part of our success can be attributed to concentrated efforts to connect the broader social justice movement and the labor movement, an intersectionality uniquely addressed by our multi-pronged approach to engagement and power-building.”
Restaurant Opportunities Center of Minnesota (ROC-MN) works to improve working and living conditions for low-wage restaurant workers in Minnesota by amplifying workers’ voices at every decision-making level. In doing so, they are building a society that values the working class and an industry that prioritizes racial and gender equity.
ROC-MN is one of the only organizations in the Twin Cities metro area focused on organizing workers in the restaurant and food-service industries. Established in 2016 during the Minneapolis campaign for a $15 minimum wage, ROC-MN (a chapter of the national organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United) provides support and training to restaurant workers, advocates for policy change, and conducts participatory research.
Today, ROC-MN includes a core leadership team of 30 restaurant workers, and over 600 members total. Their membership includes workers from across the industry, including fast-food, quick service, and fine-dining full-service restaurants workers. Their innovative approach revolves around their “snowflake model” of organizing workers, which has become a national model within ROC chapters. The model, which consists of cores of organizing staff and branching cells of autonomously operating workers coached by and working in partnership with staff, emphasizes the importance of building relationships among community members and promotes sustainability and leadership at all levels.
Using this approach, ROC-MN has been able build solidarity across divisions in the restaurant industry that have historically challenged traditional union models of organizing. Specifically, their approach has successfully spanned divisions between “front of the house” workers who are more likely to be white and English speaking, and “back of the house" workers who are more likely to be people of color and/or non-English speaking. ROC-MN's focus on addressing the most marginalized workers in the restaurant industry – immigrants, women, and people of color - has increased its reach and power-building capacity significantly. By partnering directly with these workers, ROC-MN is able to address the specific challenges that they face in the restaurant industry, including discrimination, harassment, and exploitation, working to create a more just and equitable society for all.
Because of ROC-MN’s work, Minnesota has more dignified workplaces and more workers with the knowledge and skills to build a better world by working collectively in solidarity.