A union advocacy group is hiring an independent contractor to spearhead its campaign to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers despite its past criticism of businesses for using independent contractors.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a nonprofit worker center that advocates for labor interests in the food service industry, posted classified ads to LinkedIn and Idealist.org in search of a campaign manager to push legislation boosting the minimum wage for tipped workers in New York.
While the LinkedIn post describes the position as "entry level," the Idealist post says candidates must be "an experienced legislative advocate [who will] live and breathe this campaign from now until the end of the New York State legislative session." Both emphasize that the worker will be classified as an independent contractor, rather than a full time employee.
"We are looking to contract a legislative campaign manager immediately through June 2018 to manage ROC–NY and coalition's One Fair Wage state legislative policy campaign," the Idealist post says. "The ideal candidate would hardly need to read this job description, because she knows what it means to run a legislative campaign in New York State."
The organization has been critical of companies that consider their workers as independent contractors, arguing that the classification is used to deny them job security and benefits.
ROC endorsed a Washington, D.C., bill targeting wage theft by noting that independent contractors "are not entitled to the same minimum wage, overtime, and other protections as employees." It also contributed to a 2015 report from the National Employment Law Project, a liberal legal non-profit connected to the dark money Democracy Alliance, which has frequently criticized independent contractors for denying workers "core workplace protections" and a "safety net when unemployed or injured on the job." It argued that businesses go to great lengths to treat their workers as independent contractors "to avoid liability for employment law violations, or to avoid paying payroll taxes and insurance premiums."
Labor watchdogs said the posting demonstrated the group's hypocrisy. Michael Saltsman, managing director for the pro-free market Employment Policies Institute, which opposes minimum wage increases, said the group has a history of treating its workers poorly. He pointed to a 2013 lawsuit in which eight former ROC employees filed suit against the organization for failing to pay them.
"ROC has a history of ‘do as I say, not as I do' hypocrisy, having been previously sued by its own employees for failure to pay minimum wage," he said.
ROC did not respond to request for comment about the campaign and the job posting.
Minimum wage hikes have proved popular at the state level in recent years with massive campaigns waged by the Fight for 15 movement and the Service Employees International Union.
Voters in a number of red states have passed ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage for workers well above the $7.25 federal rate. However, the push for wage hikes in the restaurant industry, in which tips drive worker pay, has been less enthusiastic. Maine lawmakers in June reversed the portion of a state ballot initiative that would have mandated a $12 minimum wage for both tipped and non-tipped workers after vocal opposition from restaurant workers.
Saltsman said the opposition from workers, as well as employers, is probably why ROC is offering to pay "up to $10,000" a month for its independent contractor in New York.
"This hypocrisy is just the latest embarrassment for ROC's founder Saru Jayaraman, after servers in Maine joined with a bipartisan group of legislators to reject her anti-tipping agenda," Saltsman said.