16 SCI Funeral Homes Affected As Company Forces Strike, Pickets Begin July 2
(Chicago, IL) – Funeral directors and drivers represented by Teamsters Local 727 overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike against Houston-based funeral giant Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI) this evening. The strike is set to begin the morning of Tuesday, July 2, 2013.
SCI, which uses the Dignity Memorial brand name, operates 16 funeral homes with 59 employees in the Chicagoland area. The employees voted in a secret ballot election to reject SCI’s June 30 “last, best and final offer”. In a vote immediately following the rejection of the offer, employees voted to strike.
“In 40 years as a funeral director I’ve helped thousands of people through some of the most difficult times in their lives. Striking is not something I ever thought I would have to do,” said John Liberatore, a director at Piser Funeral Services in Skokie. “We will not picket any funeral we arranged prior to this vote. For any future arrangements, we have created a website and a hotline to help our families connect with a community-friendly company while the strike is ongoing.”
In preparation for a strike, Teamster-represented funeral directors established a website (http://www.integrityinillinois.com/) and hotline (312-206-4123) to direct families to community-friendly funeral homes not affected by the labor action. A complete list of affected homes is available at the site.
SCI has already brought in out-of-state funeral directors. They are expected to direct funerals while working under local managers’ Illinois licenses.
Since negotiations began on June 14, Local 727 spent nearly 50 hours in a fruitless attempt to reach an agreement. On June 27, the union filed unfair labor practice charges against the company for engaging in bad faith bargaining by making unlawful omissions and misrepresentations in memos issued to its employees and negotiators. Additionally, SCI issued memos that contained implied threats to interfere with employees’ current benefits in violation of section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA. By end-of-day June 30, SCI had made virtually no movement on its proposals to eliminate the employee pension plan and gut workplace rights.
“In 100 years of representing workers in Chicago’s funeral industry, the Teamsters have always been able to reach amicable agreements. Unfortunately it is obvious that SCI intended from the beginning to destroy that achievement and force its employees to strike,” said John T. Coli, Teamsters Local 727 Secretary-Treasurer. “SCI’s initial demand sheet from June 14 is nearly identical to the final offer they presented June 30. The company admits it can easily afford to maintain these workers’ benefits. They just simply won’t because their business model calls for them to siphon more money out of the Chicago community and send it back to Houston.”
Teamsters Local 727 has represented Chicago’s funeral directors and embalmers since 1946, and it represents more than 6,800 hardworking men and women in the greater Chicagoland area.