ORLANDO, Fla. – A potential walkout by food-service workers at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) could be on the horizon ahead of the holiday season.
The workers at the Orlando venue overwhelmingly supported to strike after their contract runs out on Nov. 30. Represented by the hospitality union Unite Here, the workers are seeking higher wages, improved benefits, and revised work schedules.
According to a union press release, the average hourly wage of Sodexo convention workers at the OCCC and four other convention centers was $11.77 in February 2020, with wages increasing 5.7 percent to $12.44 by August 2022. The national seasonally adjusted inflation during that same period was 14.1 percent. The union notes between February 2020 and August 2022, those five convention centers lost 38 percent of their total workforce, including 53 percent of kitchen jobs, 50 percent of bartending jobs, and 47 percent of food-counter jobs.
“The industry is saying 2023 will be a good year for them, and the workers who make meetings and events possible deserve to share in that recovery. But instead, Sodexo is using pandemic job eliminations as an opportunity to keep down labor costs and boost their profits. Strikes at the country’s second and third largest convention centers are a real possibility if Sodexo doesn’t start treating workers with the respect they deserve,” union officials said in the press release.
In a statement provided to WFTV, a local Orlando television channel, a Sodexo spokesperson noted taking a strike vote is a “normal” part of collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
Additionally, it was stated the company would negotiate in “good faith”’ and talks are scheduled for mid-December.