(Chicago, IL) — Houston-based funeral giant Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI) rejected a last and best offer from Teamsters Local 727 and countered with its original proposal to eliminate the employees’ pension, health and educational assistance benefits.
“On the first day of negotiations [June 14], SCI laid out this identical economic proposal dressed up with 4 percent wage increases. After 40 hours of negotiating to nowhere, SCI is back to its original offer plus an additional two percent in wages. It is clear they flew to Chicago simply to bargain their way to a strike vote by their employees,” said John T. Coli, Local 727 Secretary-Treasurer. “In almost 100 years of representing workers in Chicago’s funeral industry, the Teamsters have always been able to reach amicable agreements with its employers. It is sad that SCI wants to be this type of leader in the funeral industry.”
The union will take SCI’s proposal to the 59 funeral directors and drivers for a vote on Monday night. If the members reject the offer, a strike vote will be held immediately following the vote. All votes are by secret ballot and only affected funeral directors and drivers can participate. (Copies of the company’s final offer are available upon request).
“Whether we can afford [the union proposals], 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 28.
On Sunday, in an attempt to avert a strike, the union withdrew virtually all of its proposals and made an offer that included wage increases of 3 percent in each year of a five-year contract and retention of current pension, health, legal and educational assistance benefits.
“Before we made this offer, the company offered 4.5 percent wage increases across the board. Even after three years of wage freezes, we were willing to sacrifice money in our pockets to keep the benefits intact,” said David Culyat, a 44-year funeral director at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn.
Five hours after the union presented its comprehensive offer on Sunday, SCI made its own last, best and final offer. The company rejected the union’s entire proposal and resubmitted nearly every proposal it had previously presented. SCI’s offer included the company’s original proposals to:
Eliminate employee pensions;
Eliminate employee discipline procedures;
Eliminate seniority provisions;
Eliminate the authority of independent arbitration, and
Eliminate union representative access to employees.
The only changes were to the wage package, which increased from 4 percent to 6 percent in the first year and 2 percent to 3 percent in the second year of a two-year agreement.
Despite resubmitting nearly all of the company proposals intact, when asked to explain SCI’s offer, Devadanam added: “We reject your last, best and final offer. It doesn’t address our primary concern, which is exiting the pension plan and employee contributions to health care.” Devadanam did not explain why the company’s proposal contained zero movement on any of the other issues.
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 livery drivers since 1916 and began representing funeral directors and embalmers 1946. It represents more than 6,800 hardworking men and women in the greater Chicagoland area.