Chicago, IL – On June 26, the Chicago Sun-Times refused to run an advertisement from unionized funeral directors employed by Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI) which appealed to the public for help in their contract negotiations with the $3 billion corporation.
“Initially we were told the paper’s legal department denied the ad. When we asked what needed to be changed, they refused to tell us,” said John T. Coli, Teamsters Local 727 Secretary-Treasurer.
In a message left on Teamsters Local 727 voicemail system, a Sun-Times advertising representative said: “It is the publisher’s decision that we not run it and that’s nothing that I can change. The decision lies in the publisher’s hands. At this time, that’s all I know.”
SCI is a regular advertiser in the Sun-Times obituary section.
“This was never a legal problem for the Sun-Times, it is a math problem. The Sun-Times obviously does not want to offend a consistent revenue source,” Coli said. “It’s ironic that a newspaper that makes its money off the First Amendment would do this.”
The ad consisted of text (below) and was accompanied by the names of 44 funeral directors and driver signatories:
June 28, 2013
SCI Funeral Directors & Drivers Appeal for Fairness
We, the undersigned funeral directors and drivers, are proud to be able to assist grieving families in their greatest time of need, and we have dedicated our lives and careers to this important service.
Over the last seven years, we have made sacrifices — including wage cuts and freezes — in order to help SCI. Now, the company wants to eliminate our pensions and slash our benefits. Their shameful actions could force us out on strike and cause further harm to the Chicago community.
Service Corporation International (SCI) — which owns 16 Chicago-area Dignity Memorial funeral homes — is a Houston, Texas-based, $3.8 billion company whose stock has risen 56 percent in the last year alone. They have hired L.C. Williams & Associates, an expensive public relations firm, to attack their employees while continuing to siphon off profits from our communities.
As funeral directors and drivers, we are not nameless, faceless workers; we are licensed professionals who have spent years fostering strong relationships with the families we serve. SCI needs to know they cannot treat us this way.
In the event of a labor dispute, please visit IntegrityInIllinois.com or call (312) 206-4123 to be directed to alternative funeral facilities.
The rejection of the Teamsters' ad came on the heels of the Sun-Times firing of its entire photojournalist staff.
Additionally, the Chicago Jewish News in Skokie refused to run a Teamster ad announcing the potential labor action and advertising a website that families could use to find funeral homes not involved in a labor dispute. The newspaper offered no explanation.
The Chicago Tribune accepted the Teamsters’ ad.