Even multiple taxpayer-funded grants could not keep this forced-dues collective Utopia alive:
Union organizers are hungry to add cooks, waiters and busboys to a shrinking roster of union members. The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100 came up with what it thought was a nifty idea to set up the Restaurant Opportunities Center in New York City to demonstrate that union-scale wages could be paid to restaurant workers and succeed. The co-founder, one Saru Jayaraman, told NPR that her goal was to “organize the 99 percent of the [New York City restaurant] industry that doesn’t have a union.”
Colors opened to great fanfare nearly a decade ago as “New York’s only cooperative restaurant, owned and operated by its workers.” It was a dream that soon faded into harsh reality. Colors is available now only for private events and “space rentals.” The restaurant’s advertising slogan, “Just good food,” was impossible to live up to.
Burdened by unrealistic labor costs, Colors never covered expenses and had to be bailed out with grants from New York City, state agencies, the U.S. Department of Labor and even the federal Centers for Disease Control. One of the grants was used to teach restaurant employees about workplace “safety and health hazards.” (Wash your hands. Don’t feed the rats.)
These were lessons not always learned. In April, the municipal health department cited Colors for “evidence of rats or live rats present.” This followed a losing grade last year when inspectors found mice on the premises. The murine species have found a happy home at Colors even if diners have not.
The unions haven’t yet learned the lessons successful restaurateurs learn first, and last year the union opened a new restaurant in Detroit. Bankrupt or not, people have to eat, but prospects aren’t great.
Before legislators consider “card checks” and other schemes and dreams as favors to unions, they should make reservations at Colors to get a taste of the soup they’ll be paying for.