Anthony Peeples – Worker justice & food security: Restaurant Opportunities Centre United

With over 13 million workers, the restaurant industry is one of the nation’s largest private-sector employers as well as one of the fastest growing segments of the economy in the United States. Unfortunately, the industry is also the lowest paying, continues to offer few to no benefits and has created several industry “unofficial” standards that violate labor and human rights laws .

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (“ROC United”) is a workers center that was born out of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and tragedy in New York City. It has grown to 18,000 restaurant worker members, 200 high-road employer members, and thousands of consumer members throughout the United States. ROC United has helped win more than a dozen workplace justice campaigns against exploitative high-profile restaurant companies, retrieving over 10 million dollars for workers and improving workplace policies for restaurant workers. Its mission is to improving wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workers.

Anthony Peeples is a gruff stubborn idealist. His organic draw to labor started when he was younger, playing in punk bands and reading semi-class-conscious materials like “Profane Existence”.  An organizer at heart; Anthony has been involved in the labor movement for nearly a decade. In that time, he has organized as a worker leader for a broad range of labor organizations; a traditional union, a modern organizing union, a radical union and a workers center. Anthony has experienced a broad a range of tactics and strategies to win victories for worker power. His passion lies in rank and file unionism and opposing efforts to weaken a pro-organized worker future. Anthony is a member leader of ROC-Chicago working on the One Fair Wage campaign to phase out and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers.

Anthony will present some reflections from his experience as a ROC leader in Chicago. The first reflection will consider previous experiences on the Illinois and Indiana border as a local labor activist, running through the ranks of union member and development and growth from a member to leader of ROC Chicago. The second reflection will consider the growing influence of workers centers in the labor movement; briefly touching on the unique alliance of eight workers centers in the Chicago area.