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October 26, 2016
Good afternoon and thank you to the honorable chair Mark Levine and the honorable City Council members on
the Consumer Affairs Committee.
My name is Catherine Barnett and I am the director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of NY (ROC-NY),
an affiliate of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. For the past 15 years, ROC-NY has advocated for
fair wages and working conditions for thousands of restaurant workers.
Along with the Street Vendor Project, we are members of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, which supports
workers from the farm to food processing plants, to restaurants and even street vendors.
I am testifying here before you in support of increasing permits to food vendors.
Our members share common circumstances. Many of them are immigrants who provide vital services, but their
work is often devalued and disregarded.
America is now a country that eats out more than we cook at home, at a variety of locale from restaurants to
food trucks.
In many cases individuals turn to vending in order to create a job for themselves when other jobs are not
available to them, due to inability to transfer job credentials and experiences to the US market, immigration
status, difficulty re-integrating into society after serving their country, or previous criminal justice system
Like other entrepreneurs, vendors may be driven to own their own enterprises to have more control over their
schedules, finances and destinies.
And in many cases they employ others, providing more job creation for our city.
At ROC-NY, just as we believe that all restaurant workers deserve to be paid fairly with One Fair Wage for the
work that they do and to work in safe and sanitary conditions free from harassment, we believe that street
vendors deserve the respect to conduct business like other small business owners.
By increasing the number of permits available, vendors would be able to, and we would argue, prefer to sell
legitimately and pay taxes rather than pay punitive fines and have their equipment and products confiscated
and damaged.
In fact, many restaurant workers who dream of opening their own establishments one day start by selling in
markers or at festivals. Many vendors harbor plans of opening their own brick and mortar establishments, and
some have actually taken that step.
This year some of our own restaurant worker members with dreams of entrepreneurship began selling at
Vendy Plaza, the weekly East Harlem vending market run by the Street Vendor Project.
New York City should continue to be a hub for entrepreneurial opportunity and growth in all of its legal forms.
ROC-NY urges the City Council to lift the caps and make more licenses available to food vendors.