Press Releases

Members of Congress Join Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Quinn to Support Striking Funeral Directors

(Chicago, IL) – Three members of Congress have joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and more than a dozen state legislators in support of striking Teamster-represented funeral directors.

Over the last three weeks, Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI) CEO Tom Ryan has received nearly 20 letters of support from political leaders seeking resolution to the Texas-based company’s ongoing labor dispute with Teamsters Local 727. Just this week, SCI contacted the Teamsters to potentially resume negotiations, offering two meeting dates. Local 727 has accepted both days.

“The workers at these funeral homes serve the community and do it well,” wrote Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 9th Congressional District, in a letter to SCI on July 22. “On behalf of the community I serve and the hardworking men and women employed by SCI, I urge you to come back to the table to engage in meaningful negotiations with the union and resolve these issues in a fair manner.”

SCI forced the unfair labor practice strike after the Teamsters’ contract expired on July 1, following more than 40 hours of negotiations. Throughout bargaining, SCI proposed approximately 40 regressive changes to the contract, including the elimination of the funeral directors’ pension fund, increased costs to health care premiums and zero wage increases for new hires after years of wage freezes for current employees.

Pickets began one month ago on July 2 at 16 Chicago-area funeral homes, which SCI operates under the Dignity Memorial brand name. Since the $4 billion corporation walked away from negotiations, 59 Teamster funeral directors and drivers have been fighting for parity with other Chicago funeral industry professionals.

“It is my understanding that your funeral directors and drivers are seeking nothing more than parity with other Chicago-area funeral employees,” wrote Cook County Board President Preckwinkle to SCI on July 26. “It is important to our entire community that these hardworking men and women are treated with respect.”

As North America’s largest corporate provider of death-care services, SCI commands approximately 13 percent of the market share in the funeral industry. Its stock has risen 56 percent in the last year alone.

“Teamsters Local 727 is grateful for the support of Illinois’ political leaders, who are joining nearly 100 Chicagoland clergy and innumerable families across our state to call for an end to SCI’s greed and intimidation,” said John T. Coli, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 727. “SCI has spent more than a decade trying to bust unions in states nationwide. It’s encouraging to know that even more support is rallying around the Teamsters to ensure working men and women in Illinois are not taken advantage of by this corporate bully.”

Illinois politicians who have sent letters to SCI supporting the Teamsters include:

  • U.S. Representative Michael Quigley, 5th District of Illinois

  • U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, 9th District of Illinois

  • U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth, 8th District of Illinois

  • Gov. Pat Quinn, State of Illinois

  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City of Chicago

  • President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board

  • Commissioner John Fritchey, 12th District of Cook County

  • Commissioner Bridget Gainer, 10th District of Cook County

  • Alderman Pat O’Connor, Chicago’s 40th Ward

  • Alderman Nick Sposato, Chicago’s 36th Ward

  • Senator Tom Cullerton, 23rd District of Illinois

  • Senator John Mulroe, 10th District of Illinois

  • Senator Kirk Dillard, 24th District of Illinois

  • Senator Daniel Biss, 9th District of Illinois

  • Senator Bill Cunningham, 18th District of Illinois

  • Representative Laura Fine, 17th District of Illinois

  • Representative Greg Harris, 13th District of Illinois

  • Representative Kelly Burke, 36th District of Illinois

  • Representative Daniel Burke, 1st District of Illinois

Despite blatantly false claims by SCI, Teamsters are continuing to lawfully picket outside Dignity Memorial funeral homes throughout the Chicago area. Erroneous stories published by local and national media outlets have carried inaccurate reports made by SCI on the Teamsters’ uninterrupted pickets.

Teamsters Local 727 has represented Chicago’s funeral directors and embalmers since 1946, and it represents more than 6,800 hardworking men and women across Chicagoland.