Sometimes a scorecard is the absolute worst way to know the players. Take, for instance, the new restaurant association that announced its formation last week in Washington, D.C.
It’s not a coincidence the organization was trumpeted into existence a matter of blocks from where the National Restaurant Association was holding its annual restaurateurs’ conference on government affairs. The new group, RAISE, is positioning itself as the alternative to the NRA, the industry’s most influential and active lobbying force. In RAISE’s birth announcement, the alliance professes to speak for “small sustainable restaurant owners,” a contrast in its eyes to what it characterizes as the large chains that constitute the NRA’s rank and file.
What could be wrong with that? Ditto for the mission embodied in its name: Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment. With organized labor targeting the restaurant industry, what’s wrong with some pre-emptive, progressive and voluntary reform of the practices that rile one of the private sector’s largest employers?
But check out who formed RAISE. It’s the latest initiative of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a New York-based group that stresses that it’s not a union, even though it certainly looks and sounds like one. Where it differs is in its methods.
Instead of focusing on organizating, as old-line labor groups do, ROC conducts what it attests is unbiased research about the plight of restaurant employees. Seldom are the findings a bouquet of roses for the trade of the whole. Indeed, they tend to be sharp indictments, but presented as research rather than union propaganda.
Now, with the launch of RAISE, ROC is claiming to represent a new breed of restaurant owners and operators as well. That’s what it’s saying on its scorecard. And it stresses that it already has 100 restaurants enrolled as members.
But whose interests is a non-union union really going to serve?