CHICAGO — Funeral industry giant Service Corporation International (NYSE:SCI) refused an interest arbitration offer made by the Teamsters to end a five-month lockout of Chicago funeral directors and drivers.
SCI, which operates under the Dignity Memorial brand name, rejected the arbitration deal after turning down an unconditional offer to return to work made by Teamsters Local 727 in September. The lockout affects 59 funeral directors and livery drivers at 16 Dignity Memorial funeral homes.
“SCI has spent six months telling the public that its final contract offer to these dedicated employees is fair and generous. If that is true, then the company should have no problem letting an impartial third party decide,” said John T. Coli, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 727. “All along, the union has remained willing to continue negotiating, and now we are simply asking that company agree to interest arbitration so these men and women can go back to work immediately.”
The 59 funeral employees were forced to strike on July 2 after SCI refused to bargain over a new contract in good faith with the Teamsters. More than 23 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.
The Teamsters 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.
“SCI would rather see its longtime employees literally out in the cold than serving grieving families,” Coli said. “The company has the power to end this lockout today, and we are calling on SCI to do the right thing for our members and our communities.”
Since the labor dispute began, Teamsters 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.
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