For immediate release
April 5, 2023
Workers at Superdome, Smoothie King Arena, and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center ratify new union contracts, set new wage standard for hospitality jobs in New Orleans
Agreements will impact 1,000 jobs, setting a $16/hour wage floor and resulting in immediate raises of more than $5 for some employees
NEW ORLEANS—Food workers who form a cornerstone of hospitality at three of New Orleans’ major venues have ratified union contracts with UNITE HERE Local 23. These are the first contracts for newly-organized workers at the Superdome and Smoothie King Arena, and a new contract for union workers at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The workers are employed by Sodexo, which is among the nation’s largest food service providers and one of the largest individual employers in the city of New Orleans.
The new contracts will increase the starting wage to $16 per hour for non-tipped workers, resulting in immediate raises of more than $5 for some employees. All other workers will receive $4 minimum in raises over three years. Other highlights include the ability to work year-round across all three properties, which will allow employees to meet eligibility criteria to access gold standard union health care, seniority bidding for daily work sections, and additional benefits. The new contracts are identical and will impact a total of 1,000 jobs.
“I am so excited that we won our union and to now have our first union contract,” said Bunny White, who works as a hospitality cashier at Smoothie King Arena and the Superdome. “After six years working here, I was earning only $14 per hour. I had to have a second job. But with this contract, right away I am getting a $2 raise. The extra money will mean that I won’t have to stress about things like paying my rent or how to afford fixing my car.”
UNITE HERE Local 23’s organizing efforts at the Superdome and Smoothie King Arena began in the Summer of 2021. Organizing then escalated in the wake of Hurricane Ida, as a result of Local 23’s coordinated relief outreach to all hospitality workers in the city.
In November 2022, workers at the Convention Center warned of a potential labor dispute if their new contract failed to meet expectations for improved wages and benefits.
“The ratification of these three new contracts is a great moment not only for workers at these properties, but also for Local 23 and for the city of New Orleans,” said Marlene Patrick Cooper, President of UNITE HERE Local 23. “Not only will better wages and access to health care significantly improve many workers’ lives, but they will also have access to other benefits and protections that come along with union membership. We are proud to be raising standards at one of New Orleans’ largest employers, and commend Sodexo for demonstrating a commitment to our city and its people.”
Over the past year, thousands of Sodexo cashiers, cooks, and other food service workers across the country have formed unions and mobilized to win historic contract victories at university dining halls, convention centers, stadiums and arenas, and more.
UNITE HERE Local 23 represents 25,000 hospitality workers from universities and museums, to airport concessions, hotel and parking attendants. Local 23 members are active in Georgia, Mississippi, Charlotte, Nashville, DC, Boise, Indiana, Denver, New Orleans, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Virginia.