Hundreds of workers employed by food services company Sodexo at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando who were ready to strike have reached an agreement that includes a historic minimum wage increase from $13 to $18 an hour and a pension.
A strike threat that has been looming at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando has been averted. The Unite Here Local 737 union reached an agreement with food services company Sodexo for a historic minimum wage increase from $13 to $18 an hour and a pension plan.
Every worker, regardless of current pay, get a $5.50 raise by August 2024, with the first $3 raise retroactive to August 2022. According to Unite Here Local 737, this sets a new standard in the convention center industry. The new contract also includes a union pension fully funded by Sodexo. Contributions start at $1 per hour worked and increasing to $1.50 per hour by the end of the contract.
Angie McKinnon, financial secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 737, calls this increase “life-changing.” “This is a historic rate increase for workers at the OCCC, and it sets a new standard for hospitality workers in Central Florida,” she said. “These new wages can give people a pathway out of poverty. Full-time employees will see a $400 increase in their checks weekly and over the life of the three-year contract, a $10,000 increase.”
Unite Here Local 737 represents 20,000 workers at Disney and approximately 900 at the convention center, many are on-call workers. The union had been negotiating with Sodexo since August and had seven in-person meetings to no avail. Its workers voted unanimously for a strike, if necessary, once its contract expired on December 1.
Positive News for Workers
The OCCC has been extremely busy. For example, in January 2023 it hosted 11 events, including Surf Expo and the return of the PGA Merchandise Show. “Building that business has been on the backbones of workers who are struggling,” said McKinnon. “I have workers who have been in that building for 35 years who don’t have a retirement plan.”
This wage increase and pension paves the way for other hospitality workers in Central Florida, said McKinnon. “Disney is one of biggest employers in Central Florida, and we are in a contract fight with them right now. What we won at the convention center will set a new standard in Central Florida.”
“We remain fully committed to helping secure long-term vitality for the individuals who have careers with us at the Orange County Convention Center and continuing to be economic catalysts for the greater Central Florida economy,” said Sodexo in a statement. “We’re a people business, and we value all of our team members.”