(Chicago, IL) – After 100 days on the picket line, locked out funeral directors and drivers in Chicago aren’t giving up the fight for workers’ rights.
That’s the message the members of Teamsters Local 727 sent to funeral industry giant Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI) during a boisterous rally outside Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Chicago-area legislators, including State Sen. Bill Cunningham (18th District), State Sen. Tom Cullerton (23rd District) and State Rep. Kelly Burke (36th District), joined the funeral employees in urging SCI to preserve workers’ health care and retirement benefits the corporation has threatened to eliminate.
“Funeral directors and drivers are fighting for their lives within their own communities,” said John T. Coli, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 727. “The Teamsters are asking for the support of hardworking people throughout Illinois — do not patronize SCI-owned funeral homes until this company treats its employees with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The 59 funeral employees were forced to strike on July 2 after SCI refused to bargain a new contract in good faith with Local 727. More than 14 weeks later, SCI continues to insist on slashing union-sponsored health insurance and pension benefits. When negotiations began in June, the $4 billion company based in Houston proposed nearly 40 regressive changes to the union contract, despite seeing SCI’s stock rise 94 percent in the last two years alone.
Local 727 made an unconditional offer to return to work on Aug. 19, but SCI chose to lock out employees instead. In the Chicago area, the corporation owns and operates 16 funeral homes under the Dignity Memorial brand name.
“When companies as large and profitable as SCI strip away the benefits their employees have relied on for decades, workers everywhere are disadvantaged,” said Becky Strzechowski, a Teamsters International Vice President, who spoke at the rally. “These funeral directors and drivers are not only standing up for their families, they’re standing up for the labor movement. Workers don’t deserve to be treated this way by any employer.”
Chicago Alderman Nick Sposato (36th Ward) and Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Bob Reiter also spoke out against SCI’s mistreatment of workers during Thursday’s rally.
Since pickets began, Local 727 has provided Chicago-area families with worker-friendly funeral home alternatives. A complete list is available at IntegrityInIllinois.com, alongside more information on the labor action and an online petition to support funeral workers.
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.