(HOUSTON) – Teamsters Local 727 President John Coli Jr. on May 14 publicly denounced funeral giant Service Corporation International at its annual shareholders meeting in Houston for the company’s mistreatment of Chicago-area workers.
SCI (NYSE: SCI) locked out 59 funeral directors and drivers from August 2013 to January of this year at 16 corporate-owned funeral homes. Speaking on behalf of Local 727 members, Coli criticized SCI’s financial mismanagement in the Chicago market and challenged the corporation to treat its workforce with the respect its Dignity Memorial brand name suggests.
“SCI is a publicly traded company valued at nearly $5 billion and its shareholders deserved to hear the truth about what happened in Chicago,” Coli said. “Employers cannot be allowed to boost their bottom line on the backs of working families. Companies as big and profitable as SCI need to be held accountable to their investors, their customers and their workers, especially when making reckless decisions that jeopardize the livelihoods of all three.”
Coli personally addressed SCI shareholders and its full board of directors on Wednesday, including CEO Thomas L. Ryan. Local 727 made it clear that SCI’s decision to lock out workers has already weakened the company’s brand loyalty in Chicago, especially as longtime funeral directors with close ties to their communities were forced to the picket line for months on end.
SCI operates more than 2,000 funeral homes and cemeteries in North America, many of which still bear the names of families that independently owned them for generations. Following last year’s lockout, SCI has already lost more than $3.5 million in new business at Dignity Memorial funeral homes throughout Chicagoland.
“Chicago-area funeral directors and drivers only sought to preserve their hard-fought rights and benefits last year,” Coli said. “It’s no surprise that a multi-billion dollar corporation puts profits over people, but SCI has a track record of putting its own ideology ahead of profits and people. It’s time for this company to stop the cycle of wasting as much money as possible to push an anti-labor, anti-worker agenda.”
Local 727 is currently negotiating a new contract for 26 funeral directors and drivers at Chicago-area Alderwoods funeral homes, which SCI also owns and operates. Local representatives are vigorously committed to defending workers against any new proposals that could reduce employee benefits or further harm the funeral home industry.
Teamsters Local 727, an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council 25, represents more than 6,800 hardworking men and women and more than 450 funeral home professionals.