New Jersey Teamsters Raise Serious Concerns with Conditions at StoneMor Cemeteries
(HAZLET, N.J.) – At StoneMor Inc.’s annual shareholder meeting held virtually today, Teamsters called on the company to listen to its workers who are facing poor working conditions and long-running efforts to gain a fair contract from the nationwide corporate burial company in New Jersey.
Nick Galluppo, a Teamsters Local 469 shop steward at StoneMor’s Beth Israel cemetery in Woodbridge, N.J., and Fred Potter, Teamsters Local 469 President and International Vice President, joined the annual meeting, raising concerns over the company’s anti-worker practices at its New Jersey cemeteries.
The Teamsters were rebuffed by the company’s top executives, who chose not to answer when asked about important issues concerning StoneMor workers.
“StoneMor has engaged in an anti-union and anti-worker campaign that is hurting our members, StoneMor’s customers and you the shareholders. What will the Board at StoneMor do to respect the rights of these workers to fairly bargain a collective bargaining agreement and what actions will the Board take to resolve your labor issues before they escalate further?” Potter asked.
“Once COVID-19 hit, I sat in these meetings arguing with management about the need for PPE while my coworkers and I risked exposure, burying COVID bodies in the midst of the pandemic. We asked for hazard pay and were denied. Notwithstanding, we never slowed down and we never quit. We need your help to get this contract done so that we can get back to the important business of taking care of our customers,” Galluppo said.
Grounds and maintenance workers at Beth Israel and Clover Leaf cemeteries organized with the Teamsters in March 2019. These workers are united in their efforts to negotiate a fair contract, but they are being met with delays from the company. The company recently reneged on a wage offer that would provide the cemetery workers with a living wage.
On October 29, StoneMor cemetery workers held a practice picket at Beth Israel to raise awareness of their concerns, which include short staffing and layoffs of groundskeepers, impacting the workers but also those buried at the cemeteries and their families who pay StoneMor thousands of dollars annually in endowed care.
The gravediggers, who work long hours and are fighting for fair and safe working conditions, find their struggle compounded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their powerful stories were highlighted in this recent investigative article by VICE News: http://ibt.io/ViceNJGravediggers.
In the past two years since CEO Joe Redling has been at the helm of StoneMor, the company’s stock price has fallen 80 percent, significantly underperforming the market and key peers in the death care industry, even prior to the pandemic. Even as the company scrambles to implement drastic cost cuts—selling off key assets, cutting jobs and outsourcing core operations—StoneMor’s executive team continues to receive generous payouts.
For the past year, StoneMor CEO Joe Redling was paid $3 million. His voluntary decision to give up 50 percent of his base salary for 10 weeks during the pandemic amounted to about 2 percent of his total compensation in 2019. A NY Times analysis found that two thirds of CEOs who took voluntary cuts to their base salary as gestures of shared sacrifice gave up about 10 percent of their total pay over the prior year, which was still noted as a “tiny” amount.
StoneMor has been in the news increasingly in other states due to problems at its cemeteries for workers, impacting gravesites and families.
The company which operates Beth Israel, a Jewish cemetery, was also recently in the news for printing 38,000 copies of a calendar for its funeral homes which featured a quote by a Nazi SS leader from World War II.