With Unite Here Local 737’s nearly 800 workers at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center threatening to strike since the end of 2022, a tentative contract agreement was reached on January 24 between the union and Sodexo, the foodservice provider at the facility.
The standout elements of the new deal: a minimum-wage increase from $13 to $18 per hour, and a $5.50-per-hour raise for all current employees, to take effect between now and summer 2024.
The minimum-wage increase for the facility’s restaurant, concession, and banquet employees “sets a new standard for Central Florida workers,” according to a statement released by Unite Here Local 737. Proof that the union—which also represents hotel and restaurant workers at Disney, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, Doubletree Universal, Patina Restaurant Group, and Palmas Services—will use the agreement to try to gain wage increases for other local hospitality workers: A January 26 Facebook post on a page run by the union and named “Orlando Hotel and Restaurant Workers Movement” says exactly that. It reads as follows:
“Sodexo foodservice and retail workers at the Orange County Convention Center will earn at least $18 an hour this year, making them the first hospitality workers in Orlando to reach that high of a minimum wage. If convention-center workers are worth $18, why should Disney workers accept less? Vote ‘No’ to Disney’s contract proposal on February 2 and 3!”
Given the strong demand for front-line workers at hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses throughout Orlando, the new wage floor could force those businesses to reevaluate their pay rates for current and prospective employees, which in turn could raise costs for meetings and events taking place in Orlando—and perhaps in other cities too. The reason: Unite Here also represents foodservice workers at convention centers in Las Vegas; Sacramento, Calif.; New Orleans; and Detroit, some of whom have threatened to strike over pay and working conditions now that their contracts have expired.
Sodexo has not yet made a public statement about the new agreement in Orlando.