Chef Daniel Boulud got one of his first tastes of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) when they inflated a gigantic cockroach outside of his upscale New York restaurant. The cockroach, used in conjunction with chants of “racist” to decry alleged differences in promotion by race, led to decreased business.

Predictably, this negative publicity forced Boulud to pay $80,000 to the seven plaintiffs in the case, give raises to other employees, and enroll in racial sensitivity courses.

The ROC was founded in New York in the aftermath of 9/11 to help restaurant workers who had worked at Windows on the World. Since then, however, the organization has morphed into something entirely different, working as a backdoor to unionizing restaurants through coercive and sometimes bizarre actions.

Even more bizarre: The Labor Department gave the ROC a $275,000 grant in 2009.

The grant was given to develop a program that would educate employees about workplace safety and ergonomics. Instead, the ROC produced and disseminated documents pushing unionization and ROC membership. ROC, a group with strong ties to unions like UNITE-HERE, essentially became a front group for unionization in the restaurant industry.

A brief glance over any of the documents the ROC produced for their grant shows their bias (those documents, that is, that are not written in Latin gibberish). These documents repeatedly encourage restaurant employees to join the ROC or form a union.

Shortly after its inception, the ROC began a campaign of backdoor unionization centered on intimidating and harassing employers. To get businesses to capitulate to their demands, they organize noisy protests, complete with drums and picketing (and, for students at the University of Michigan, class credit!).

On other occasions they have burst into the establishments themselves, interrupting dinner services and insulting patrons. Even wedding parties aren’t exempt from their jeering. In another example of strange behavior, the group reorganized their protests as “prayer vigils” after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that their attempts to represent workers and extract reparations from restaurant owners were illegal.

Perhaps more damaging to businesses than pernicious protests are the frivolous lawsuits and baseless accusations they bring for alleged ethical violations. Restaurant owners in some cases have gone out of business, while others have settled. Still others have fought the group’s ludicrous charges with restraining orders.

The irony in all of this is that the ROC’s actions hurt the very people they are trying to help. When individuals choose to eat elsewhere after seeing giant cockroach, the real losers are that restaurant’s servers and cooking staff.

At a time when U.S. debt is rapidly growing to unsustainable levels, why does such a divisive far-left group receive taxpayer support? Sending tax dollars to the ROC looks a lot more like government waste than serving the public good.