Unsure of where to go for dinner tonight? Don't consult the ROC United Diners Guide, the latest attempt by the Restaurant Opportunities Center to pressure restaurants into raising the minimum wage of $7.25 to a higher "living wage," ranging from $10 to $15 an hour.
ROC is a "worker center" which purports to represent employees, even though employees have not selected it.
It might sound noble to pressure restaurants into raising wages, but the unintended consequences are fewer jobs — which will go to more highly skilled employees.
When restaurants raise wages, the young and unskilled are priced out of jobs. The teen unemployment rate was 24 percent in July, and the African-American teen unemployment rate was 42 percent.
Fewer than 3 percent of employed Americans are paid minimum wage or below, but half of those workers are under 25.
Half of minimum wage workers are employed by the leisure and hospitality industry, mostly by restaurants — the point of entry into the workforce for many teens.
In Washington, D.C., the ROC United Diners Guide recommends Ben's Chili Bowl, or Jack Rose, or any of the Think Food Group restaurants, such as Jaleo or Minibar. The guide discourages going to Olive Garden or the Capital Grille.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center says that the purpose of its Dining Guide "is to provide you with the information and tools to communicate to managers and owners wherever you eat out, whenever you eat out, that you, the consumer, care about wages paid."
Restaurants get one of five possible points if they join ROCs Restaurant Industry Roundtable. According to Fabricio Rodriguez, who is coordinator and founder of ROC's Philadelphia office and who was contacted for this column, they do not have to pay to join.
They get points if tipped workers make at least $5 an hour, if non-tipped workers make $9 an hour, if employees get sick leave, and if at least half of employees have been promoted internally.
Examples of "High Road" restaurants are Shake Shack, Houlihan's, In-N-Out Burger, and Inspire BBQ.
Some restaurants, including those that are part of the Darden Restaurant Group, such as Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Yard House, are given a symbol because they won't accede to ROC's demands.
ROC organizes demonstrations outside these restaurants to discourage diners.
The methodology for the Guide is unscientific. ROC interviews a restaurant in a chain at one location, and then extrapolates to the rest of the country.
ROC is a member of FastFoodForward, which is organizing protests all over the country in favor of higher wages for restaurant workers.
Besides Washington, D.C., ROC has affiliates in New Orleans, Miami, Michigan, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Houston.
In 2011, the latest year available, it listed revenues of $2.7 million. Of that, more than 99 percent came from charitable contributions, according to the documents that ROC filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
No matter that restaurant workers have not voted to be represented by ROC or FastFoodForward, nor that ROC isn't required to file detailed financial disclosure documents with the Department of Labor.
No matter that the ROC Dining Guide might undermine these workers' jobs.
A May 2013 paper by University of California economics professors David Neumark and J.M. Ian Salas and Federal Reserve Board economist William Wascher concluded that a higher minimum wage results in more unemployment for teens and low-skill workers.
ROC should stop pretending to be friends of workers. Using the ROC Diners Guide will prevent teens from getting their foot on the first rung of the career ladder, reducing their lifetime earnings potential.
DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH, a Washington Examiner columnist (email@example.com) and former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.