(Chicago, IL) — Teamster-represented funeral directors and drivers issued a “last and best” contract proposal to begin the final day of negotiations with Houston-based funeral giant Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI).
After only making several tentative agreements on minor issues over the course of five full days of negotiations, the union gave the corporate negotiators a simple proposal:
Wage increases of 3 percent in each year of a five-year contract
Retain current pension benefits
Retain current health and legal and educational benefits
Current contract language on nearly all work rules
In 2010, funeral directors and drivers agreed to three years of wage freezes when the company claimed financial difficulty. Since then, the company has become a financial darling in the industry. It has seen its stock price explode 56 percent in the last year alone.
“Whether we can afford it, that’s not the issue. We haven’t pled poverty in negotiations, and we’re not going to now,” Amy Devadanam, SCI attorney and lead negotiator, told the union’s bargaining committee on June 29.
The union has met with SCI executives for more than 40 hours since negotiations began June 14. The negotiations have lasted more than three times longer than the negotiations required to secure a contract with 67 locally owned funeral homes represented by the Funeral Directors Services Association (FDSA).
In July 2012, Local 727 settled and ratified a new five-year agreement with the FDSA that covers nearly 400 funeral directors and livery drivers. It was the 15th consecutive contract settled without a labor dispute. The union and the FDSA have created an environment that is profitable for the companies, fair to the employees and beneficial to the community.
From the very first negotiation meeting, SCI has had a public relations executive from L.C. Williams & Associates, a high-priced Michigan Avenue media firm, at the table. During Saturday’s negotiations, SCI began touring out-of-state funeral directors through its facilities.
“It is obvious that SCI intended from the beginning to force its workers to take a stand. In 100 years of representing workers in Chicago’s funeral industry, the Teamsters have always been able to reach amicable agreements,” said John T. Coli, Teamsters Local 727 Secretary-Treasurer. “In 2013, it’s been SCI’s way or the highway with no regard for its impact on the 59 employees, families or the community.”
The funeral directors and drivers have established a website (www.integrityinilliniois) and hotline (312-206-4123) to direct families to locally owned funeral homes not affected by a potential work stoppage.
Teamsters Local 727 has represented Chicago’s funeral directors and embalmers since 1946, and it represents more than 6,800 hard working men and women in the greater Chicagoland area.