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Political activism, CN style

This is Fiorello's Roman Cafe, at 1900 Broadway in the city, across from Lincoln Center. Try the tuna fillet; it's spectacular. The pizza is also extraordinary. In fact, feel free to try any (or all!) of the restaurants in the The Fireman Group. You can't go wrong.

I lived for years on Manhattan's west side, and these eateries were fixtures on our "eating out" roster. They were always a safe bet for good, reliable food in a hassle-free environment, where the atmosphere is nice, but you don't have to be Henry Kravitz to get a reservation. We became regulars at more than one restaurant in the group.

Sadly, these establishments are collectively under siege by a malicious shakedown campaign of intimidation and extortion.

It's causing chaos for the city's upper-end eateries -- without apparent benefit to anyone except the folks wreaking the havoc. They say their goal is social justice, but some would say it looks more like a shakedown.

The group's name is ROC, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, and it has targeted top restaurants (Redeye Grill, Daniel, Cité and more) for payments -- allegedly in the name of restaurant workers.

With considerable success -- for ROC and its chieftains, that is. Workers, it seems, haven't benefited much.

How does it work? Ask Shelly Fireman, the patriarch of the Fireman Hospitality Group, which owns Redeye Grill, Shelly's and other eateries. He's been a ROC target for 15 months.

"In November '05, ROC stormed our restaurant, Redeye Grill, in the middle of dinner service, armed with loudspeakers, noisemakers and cameras," Fireman wrote in Restaurant News.

They handed him a letter accusing him of "subjecting our employees to wage and hour violations, sexual abuse, verbal abuse and racial discrimination... The letter demanded we send them $3 million and threatened that if we refused to pay, ROC would launch pickets, media attacks and lawsuits against us."

Fireman contacted ROC immediately -- but the group's chief, Saru Jayaraman, said she had no specific claims. Yet she still demanded to bargain collectively on behalf of all Redeye employees.

He declined -- federal labor law prohibits employers from bargaining with any "representative" who hasn't actually been chosen by his workers.

So ROC launched weekly protests at his restaurants. Then, after the National Labor Relations Board ruled in 2005 that ROC's protests are not legal job actions, Jayaraman agreed to cease and desist -- but instead ramped up the protests.

Regular readers know I'm not much into political activism. I much prefer to bitch and moan about the way things are without actually doing anything about it (it's more fun that way.) But sometimes, every now and then, "doing the right thing" can mean going out to a nice dinner with friends and ordering many, many drinks. This is one of those times. Let's help Shelly Fireman fight these street thugs. I hereby urge all of my readers to go patronize Fiorello's or one its sister restaurants. Go early and go often! I'll be there. Find my table, and I'll buy you a drink! Offer good while supplies last.


Fiorello's, is that the place with the big variety of antipasto dishes you choose from by the bar? I love that place. I love a lot of places in the area around Lincoln Center. If I could afford it, I would eat at Picholine every night. The Saloon seems to be gone now.

If this really is a matter of extortion under the guise of labor organizing, then it's a shame and a sham and needs to be stopped. I can't tell from the story whether or not that is really the case. I need to spend more time with it for that. But by golly, I won't let them take my favorite restaurants without legitimate cause. That's going too far.

Yes, that's it! My wife *always* gets the antipasto bar.

This is the part of the article that really got me;

“ROC chief Jayaraman, a Yale/Harvard-trained lawyer, says her goal is to organize "the 99 percent of the [restaurant] industry that's non-union." Yet her group hasn't unionized anything - not even its own eatery.

“Soon after Colors opened, its employees (who had invested money in what they believed was a cooperative enterprise) revolted, upset that ROC management was pocketing 40 percent of the earnings and giving seed investors another 40 percent, leaving just 20 percent to the staff.

“How could a pro-labor group open a non-union shop? Well, ROC isn't a union - it's a charity.

“Indeed, founded after 9/11 as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity, ROC's official goal was to help dislocated workers from Windows on the World, the eatery that used to top the World Trade Center.

“That worthy aim drew in $500,000 in start-up cash from Unite HERE Local 100, which represents hotel and restaurant workers. The Red Cross and the September 11th Fund also donated.

“Based on what ROC's "help" turned out to be, they should ask for their money back.

“WINDOWS owner David Emil began his own recovery from 9/11 by opening Noche in Times Square. Since the new place was smaller, he couldn't provide enough jobs for all of his former Windows workers.

“Enter ROC, which hit him with a huge protest the night before his grand opening. The next day, Emil caved, agreeing to take on another 35 ROC members, and adding a catering operation to (he hoped) not lose money with his suddenly enlarged staff.

“Noche went belly-up shortly thereafter - and all those former Windows employees were back out of work...

"...Our challenge to capitalism is not simply building alternative institutions," she explains, "but actually, over time . . . developing new owners . . . who will infiltrate the New York State Restaurant Association and ultimately co-opt it for workers' rights."

“Jayaraman explains: "While a union has to go in and organize the majority of a shop to get some kind of collective bargaining agreement, in our case we'll have a group of workers come in . . . a small number from a restaurant, and we will 'organize' them to create a demand letter, eventually file litigation, protest in front of the restaurant and get press."...

“...OTHER restaurants that gave in to ROC's demands have met fates similar to Noche's. In early 2005, Smith & Wollensky Group paid ROC $164,000 to end protests at two of its eateries, Cité and Park Avenue Café. ROC boasts that it also got agreements from the management regarding overtime pay, lunch breaks and sick and vacation days.

“Citing financial losses in '05 and '06, the company has since put both restaurants up for sale...

“...OC claims that Daniel re serves the highest-paid, front-of-the-restaurant positions for whites. But many of Daniel's Hispanic workers say the only thing ROC protests do for them is steal their tips by scaring away business.

“This all came to a head last month, when ROC protesters actually began booing Daniel's Hispanic employees - the very people ROC claims to be fighting for.

"I've been working here for four years and a half," said Javier Alcantarilla, who began as a busboy. "I've been promoted four times so far. I've never had problems. Never, never. I've never seen any discrimination."

Anti-Capitalists are basically anti-consumer, which is, when all is said and done, anti-human and anti-progress. Capitalism is built on the premise that business exists to serve the needs of consumers. Since most customers demand the highest quality at the lowest possible price, ALL the commodities that go into creating the goods and services provided by business, from plastics and wood, to meats and fish, to transportation and human labor most be gotten at the lowest possible cost.

The primary reason that Socialism CANNOT work is that it puts a commodity (labor), or the mere peon worker over the king consumer.

In private sector, businesses put the needs of the consumer/customer FIRST - "The customer is always right."

It's the world's greatest democracy - an economic democracy where all customers are sought after.

When a private sector company hits hard times it cuts costs (sometimes laying off workers and forcing other workers to work longer hours) to reduce costs and offer bettter prices and better services to the consumer, so they can better compete for every consumer dollar.

When a government managed or run enterprise (like the Post Office) runs into hard time, the first thing it does is raise prices and cut services. A government job is a veritable lifetime sinicure.

Simply put, private enterprise puts PEOPLE (the consumer) first, while government puts itself (and its workers) first.

Saru Jayaraman is apparently a con-artist, who’s efforts have deliberately put workers out of work. There’s little doubt that she intended to drive those other restaurants out of business. Besides, most self-proclaimed “anti-Capitalists” consider work “wage-slavery” and feel they’re doing workers a favor by putting the businesses they work for out of business.

Yeah, it really looks like ROC is a racket. Mind you, I don't trust major news outlet reports on unions because they are very anti-union. However, in this case it seems to be justified. Legitimate unions are hurt by the phonies and the con artists as much as businesses.

That's a good place, that Fiorello's. Now I'm thinking I have to get Mrs DBK back into the city soon. Fiorello's has terribly teeny bathrooms that make you claustrophobic, and it is a very tight fit altogether, but it is an excellent restaurant and a fun place to eat. Mrs DBK and I both like the antipasto bar. There is something extra fun about ordering a large variety of small dishes. It's like doing the tapas thing, which we did a couple of times when we were in Barcelona.

By the way, I know you didn't say they are, but I just want to put this out there: most of the liberals and progressives I know are definitely capitalists and capitalism is not inconsistent with liberalism.

"...most of the liberals and progressives I know are definitely capitalists and capitalism is not inconsistent with liberalism." (DBK)

Glad to hear that, though I've known a few....I'd call them "radicals," or like Ms. Jayaraman, self-proclaimed "Socialists" who were indeed anti-Capitalist.

That's why I used that term (anti-Capitalist), as "Liberal" has a far broader meaning today.

Most of the time those broader labels only add to the confusion because they aren't particularly definitive.

I believe both Unions and management have, in turn, both gone too far at various times, and in both cases to the detriment of workers and consumers alike.

I don't believe that most Liberals want to see businesses shuttered and people put out of work, but anti-Capitalists and scam-artists like Saru Jayaraman seem to want just that.

I'd guess, judging from the tenor of this article, that Manhattan restauranteurs are a different breed than those from Staten Island and Brooklyn, because I've known some of the latter, and they tend to be somewhat difficult to "negotiate" with. Things could get physical pretty quickly and usually with bad results for the "negotiator."

I do agree that "Liberalism" runs the gamut, from the extreme anti-capitalists (who often like to call themselves "Liberal") to moderate reformers, just as Conservatism runs the gamut from neo-fascists to supporters of regulated Capitalism (Corporatism) to anarcho-Libertarians.

That's probably why "Liberal" and "Conservative" are such amorphous and non-defining terms today.

It's like "anti-war" - that view runs the gamut from thoughtful opponents of the current military actions, like Pat Buchanan, Jim Webb and Ron Paul to radicals like Moore, Sheehan and the Code Pink crowd who compare the current adminsitration to the Third Reich and consider the current WH occupant to be "the world's biggest terrorist."

There's a lot of divergence in those general terms/labels.

Never judge a movement by its extremes. In fact, the extremes on both sides ought to be locked in a room together to kiss and make up because nothing brings to mind the term "twins" like the extremes of opposing factions. What is more similar to the Taliban than the Religious Right?

Anyway, of course liberals in the US are mostly capitalists. We grew up in a capitalist culture and it succeeds because most everyone thinks they can do well here under capitalism and, besides, we do very well here for the most part. I concern myself with the problems of poverty and I hate that the number of people living below the poverty line has grown significantly in the past six years (after declining before that), but I don't think that is inconsistent with my comfort with capitalism. I don't believe in a laissez-faire capitalism, but rather that it needs to be regulated (like a certain Republican whom I like a lot, as president's go, by the name of Teddy Roosevelt).

As for the anti-war crowd, that bunch I marched with on the 27th in DC mostly comprised people like myself: middle-aged people who think we've been led badly by a very poor sort of president and by a Congress that didn't ask enough questions and rolled over for bad reasons and complied with the president's agenda. The people there were not wild-eyed leftists, for the most part, and not commies for the most part either (though you'll hear the carping about Che Guevara T-shirts from those who focus on the extremes and can't see the forest). We were mostly ordinary Americans who despise the war, and I spoke to a lot of people who came in from Ohio and Indiana and other "heartland" states to march in opposition to the war.

Anyway, I've prospered and done well under capitalism. Nothing wrong with making an honest buck.

“I concern myself with the problems of poverty and I hate that the number of people living below the poverty line has grown significantly in the past six years (after declining before that)...” (DBK)

Well, while that’s true, so far as the actual number goes (the census report counts illegal aliens/”undocumented residents,” as it doesn’t demand proof of citizenship), the poverty RATE peaked in 2004 at 12.7% (still VERY low) and has not risen since, in fact, it’s declined very slightly; “The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 37 million Americans were living under the poverty line last year - about 12.6 percent of the population. That's down from 12.7 percent in 2004, but census officials said the change was statistically insignificant.

“The median household income - the point at which half make more and half make less - was $46,300, a slight increase from 2004.” (CBS TV News 8/2006, http://wcbstv.com/politics/politicsnational_story_241103704.html)

The poverty rate reached a low of just over 11% by the end of 1999 and began to slowly rise through 2004.

The current rate is actually favorable to the lowest rate reached at the end of LBJ’s “war on poverty.” In 1959 the U.S. poverty rate was about 23%, by 1964 (a year before LBJ’s “war on poverty”) it had already been dropped to 15%, dropping precipitously from 1959.

In 1885 it stood at appx 15% and in 1994 it was again 15%...it stands now at about 12.7%.

It should be noted that the UK has a poverty rate of appx 17% and while France, Germany and most Scandinavian nations have significantly lower poverty rates, that is largely because they don’t count those on public assistance, as most of their populations receive some sort of public assistance at some point each year.

All those countries not only have more people receiving government assistance, but they also tend to have higher unemployment and inflation rates than the U.S. does.

My disagreement with those opposed to the war in Iraq goes to the pre-Iraq revisionism that is so prevalent. The NY Times reported that Saddam’s own Generals believed that Iraq had stockpiles of WMDs, because Saddam Hussein led them to believe that, out of a policy called “deterrence by doubt.” That’s why virtually every intelligence agency in the world believed that very same thing.



For over a decade Saddam’s Iraq was listed by the U.S. State Dept as a “State Sponsor of International Terrorism.”

The fact that we did not have enough declassified information to make that case for Iraq in any court of law, was, and even now is, the same for Iran and Syria, two nations we KNOW are actively supporting and sponsoring terrorist organizations.

Moreover, there certainly seems to be a serious double standard in regards to Iraq and the Balkans, as BOTH were “UN opposed,” and “unprovoked military actions” against a sovereign nation. In fact, in the Balkans one can (and should) argue that we wittingly or not, sided with the wrong side morally in that “fight between a rat and a snake,” as the Muslims of Kosovo were the first to engage in genocide in that region.

So, I have a problem with what seems to be an egregious double standard in that regard.

"In 1885 it stood at appx 15% and in 1994 it was again 15%...it stands now at about 12.7%" (JMK)...

...That should be 1985, of course!


For original data, the Census Bureau has the poverty numbers. I prefer them to the news media for this sort of info because it is easy to find the data and then it isn't someone else telling you what you should think about it.


DBK, they have the very same poverty rates under

Historical Poverty Tables (Table 5)

Using the 1.00 line;

2005.... 12.6

2004.... 12.7

1994.... 14.5

1993.... 15.1

1992.... 14.8

1983.... 15.2

1982.... 15.0

Moreover, one major problem I have with using that particular Census report is that it counts ALL residents, not only American citizens in its overall sample of poverty within the United States.

I'd argue, and I think you'll agree, that an illegal immigrant from Mexico, working for $4/hour in the U.S. (a substandard wage HERE and one that puts that person well below the poverty level in the U.S.) should not really be counted among "America's poor."

The reason is that he's not American - he's MEXICAN!

By Mexican standards, $4/hour is a decent wage, a very decent wage down there, so we shouldn't count that person, a citizen of Mexico and an illegal alien/"undocumented worker" here, as being among "America's poor."

Sure, it's a "technicality," but a damned good one, in my opinion.

The Census Bureau DOES give a breakdown by nativity and that's a better snapshot of poverty in the U.S. in my view.

Poverty Rates by Nativity (Table 23)

(per thousand people)

All people: 36,950 of 293,135 - % below poverty = 12.6

Native born Americans: 31,080 of 257,513 - % below poverty = 12.1

Not a citizen: 4,429 of 21,740 - % below poverty = 20.4

And the number of non-citizens (illegals/undocumenteds) has risen from 15,560,000 in 1993 to 21,740 in 2005.

THAT rise in the number of illegals seesm to account for much of the overall "rise in the numbers of those in poverty."

Those illegals shouldn't be included in a discussion of real poverty in America...in my opinion.

Moreover it makes another argument that I kind of like, "LESS illegal aliens = LESS poverty."

"And the number of non-citizens (illegals/undocumenteds) has risen from 15,560,000 in 1993 to 21,740 in 2005."

That's "from 15,560,000 in 1993 to 21,740,000 in 2005."

I don't have as high a regard for your argument about Mexicans as you do. If the question is "How many people live in poverty in America?" then you are wrong. If the question is "How many Americans live in poverty?" then you are right. However, the first question seems to me more sensible since those Mexicans/Columbians/Venezuelans/Poles/etc. are living in poverty in America. I don't see the relevance of how affordable $4/hour makes life in Guadalupe de Las Corrientes. But that's an argument I have neither the time nor inclination to pursue to its darkest ending.


Bottomline, ALL those people are here illegally.

What those tables show, at least table 23, is that LESS illegal immigrants = LESS poverty in the U.S.

And indeed it does make clear how the number of people in povery can rise, while the percentages drop slightly - that increased influx of illlegals over the past ten years certainly must account for much of that.

Still the question remains, "Is an illegal immigrant from Mexico, American, or Mexican?"

I'd say it's obvious he's Mexican, since America has immigration statutes on the books and states can deny non-citizens drivers licenses, taxpayer funded day-care and other social programs. If there were any demonstrable "right" to unfettered immigration," none of those thing scould stand.

Not surprisingly, I'm a big supporter of denying services to illegals and was gleeful that AZ passed an "English as the official state language resolution," and other ballot initiatives that denied illegal immigrants all sorts of taxpayer funded programs.

Illegal immigration is a huge net loss for the U.S.

It creates a persistent downward pressure on U.S. wage rates, as well as burdening us with something on the order of 5X the cost of what those "workers" produce. Those costs come from free emergency room health care, education, prison costs for felons and other social costs.

Fine those companies that hire illegals and workers "off the books" per worker and you'll find that the majority of the illegals "self-deport," (no jobs, no reason to come here) thereby reducing some of the poverty within the U.S.

Hey Barry, I live in Texas, so obviously I can't make it there to help out. Have some hard liquor there in my absence, knowing I'd be there if I could?

"What those tables show, at least table 23, is that LESS illegal immigrants = LESS poverty in the U.S."

No, they don't. That is a non sequitur. The tables "show" exactly what they show. You assume a conclusion and claim it is shown by the tables. We don't actually know what the state of poverty would be without illegal immigrants included in the stats.

Actually, how do illegal immigrants get included in the stats? I may have given you too much credit for that statement to begin with. Are you sure they are included? Are you sure they are included in statistically significant enough numbers to support your conclusions? Are you sure that they are the ones confined in the poverty portion of the table? Frankly, in re-reading this, it sounds like you're merely doing a GOP talking points session about illegal immigration and not doing any real analysis of the statistics.

Nope, you lost me more than you gained me. I now conclude that nothing you said about illegal immigration with respect to poverty can be trusted without deeper and better analysis. Which I, unfortunately, really can't spend time on. You should have agreed with me somewhere; I would have stuck with you longer.

Gee, an entire thread where I agree with JMK.

I'd better take another vacation.

Table 23 compares native born Americans, naturalized citizens and non-citizens.

We haven't increased legal immigration numbers from 1993 to 2005, so I'm figuring they included ALL the non-citizens they could sample (legal/illegal)...the Census Bureau, like the NYPD and some other big city PDs don't ask non-citizens about their status.

And certainly, when the poverty rate for non-citizens is over 20% compared to 12.1% for native born citizens - LESS non-citizens = LESS poverty.

That's an undeniable mathematical trusim.

There is no positive way of looking at illegal immigration.

Looking for a positive in that disaster is just plain naive.

Illegal immigration puts a persistent downward pressure on ALL U.S. wage-rates. It primarily and initially impacts low and non-skilled labor, but when that floor is reduced it lowers the floor for all other wage rates.

Beyond that, the costs of illegal immigration in terms of strain on emergency (free) health care, law enforcement and detention costs for felons, social costs for children and other dependents is on the order of 5X what that labor pool produces in "cheap labor" - itself a net negative as explained above.

Another problem with "cheap" illegal immigrant labor is that while a few Americans profit greatly, they do so at a tremendous cost to others.

Well, I'd expect you to agree with me on illegal immigration BH, just as you'd probably disagree with me on legal immigration - while I'd like to see family unification and the "anchor baby" routes eradicated, in favor of taking in ONLY those immigrants with specific skills that would help address our needs caused by structural unemployment - not enough people trained in specific areas.

If there's a shortage of architects or math teachers and we can import some, that's a "net positive," a sit would help address some needs caused by structural unemployment.

India has walked way with our trillion dollar software industry, which could have provided good jobs for generations and a goal worth achieving for our children.

Now they all go into business school to become parasites.

So, there are no more computer/IT jobs in the U.S.?

We gave tham all away to India???

Lots of articles I’ve read point to an increased demand for IT labor right here in America, but structural unemployment here in the U.S., maybe we DO need to increase the caps on those H-1B visas again!


600,000 Computer Jobs Will Go Unfilled This Year
Due to a Lack of Qualified Workers


Even with the downturn in the economy--600,000 computer jobs in the United States will go unfilled in 2002 due to a lack of qualified workers, according to a recently released study by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). This is up from a similar study conducted a year ago, after the dot com crash, which indicated 425,000 positions would go unfilled in 2001.

The massive layoffs in the information technology industry that made so much news last year primarily were by information technology employers--companies that make hardware and software and dot-coms. But, they represent only eight percent of the employers who use IT trained workers, according to ITAA. The other 92% use their IT trained employees to make their hardware, software and web sites and intranets work, and they’re hiring.

“The need for skilled IT workers is ongoing. It is a constant, and we don’t ever it see it going away,” said Marjorie Mynum, ITAA’s vice president for Workforce Development. “As long as technology is there, the need and demand for skilled workers is also going to be there.

Then there's this;

Gates Cites Hiring Woes, Criticizes Visa Restrictions


"Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said yesterday the software giant is having enormous difficulty filling computer jobs in the United States as a result of tight visa restrictions on foreign workers and a declining interest among U.S. students in computer science.

Speaking on a technology panel at the Library of Congress, Gates said a decline in the number of U.S. students pursuing careers in science and technology is hurting Microsoft in the short run, and could have serious long-term consequences for the U.S. economy if the problem is not addressed.

All this, of course, begs the question, are you ever, even remotely right about anything?

Just asking.

JMK, even a child would notice that Microsoft stands to benefit MOST by bringing in cheap labor and thus suppressing all computer worker wages in the US. Microsoft has huge centers in India that are growing while they cut back on US employees.

600,000 unfilled IT jobs, LOL! I wonder why college graduates in Computer Science aren't walking right into those jobs? Are they choosing to remain unemployed? Why aren't the millions of programmers who left for other fields being lured back?

These "unfilled" jobs fall into three categories:

1. Imaginary jobs that don't exist, made up by companies like Microsoft to try and show a need to bring in more foreign workers to suppress wages.

2. Jobs that pay so little that nobody with an American education could possibly afford to take them ... if they pay at all, many are "internships".

3. Jobs that described in such away that only one potential employee (in India) actually qualifies for the job, which in reality is an ordinary programming job anyone could do, but they just want the guy who will work cheap.

Oh, one final note: Microsoft contacted me to fill one of these jobs.

Funny, when I actually talked to the guy, they seemed to have very few positions open.

They thought my qualifications were great, but I wanted too much money (they want to pay 20% less than an average midwest salary for a programmer).

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