The Restaurant Opportunities Center (“ROC”), an organization that advocates for restaurant employees, is alleged to have failed to disclose its lobbying activities to the IRS as required by federal law, according to a restaurant trade group, “ROC Exposed”.

ROC Exposed alleges that ROC is a “union front” group, and has sent a formal complaint to the IRS requesting an investigation of ROC’s lobbying activities. In the complaint, ROC Exposed requests the IRS “to investigate whether the Restaurant Opportunities Center (“ROC”) engages in lobbying as a 501(c)(3) Public Charity, and is in noncompliance with IRS requirements.

Mike Paranzino, communications director for ROC Exposed, released the following in a press statement: “The Restaurant Opportunities Center has blatantly violated federal reporting requirements for lobbying activities in its pursuit of more and more anti-business mandates.” ROC hosts a “Counter Lobby Day” each year, in which ROC staffers and members meet with members of Congress and lobby for the organization’s preferred policies, aimed to benefit restaurant workers, including the WAGES Act, paid sick leave measures, and minimum wage legislation. ROC also lobbies for such initiatives at other levels of government, the anti-ROC group contends. “They have done all of this while reporting to the IRS that they do not lobby.” This means that the organization is in violation of IRS reporting rules as a nonprofit “Public Charity".

On its website, the ROC identifies the deputy director of food services for UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant union, among the organization’s 11-member board of directors.

According to ROC Exposed, “ROC is a labor union front group disguised as a restaurant industry employment center and watchdog.” ROC Exposed noted that in 2012, House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif) launched an investigation into ROC’s activities and federal funding received by the organization from the Department of Labor.

It remains to be seen what will result from ROC Exposed’s complaint. If ROC Exposed is successful in its challenge to ROC, “worker advocacy” groups similar to ROC could come under closer scrutiny and challenge by other industry trade groups.