Industry Giant SCI Pushes Employees to Brink of Strike as Funeral Directors Unanimously Reject Contract

Jun 17, 2011, 10:49 ET from Teamsters Local 727

CHICAGO, June 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Teamsters Local 727-represented funeral directors/embalmers and livery drivers at four Alderwoods funeral homes unanimously rejected the company's contract proposal Thursday night. The proposal included a three-year wage freeze and company health care coverage that is more expensive and less comprehensive than the union's health and welfare benefits.

"The union's final proposal saved the company more money than the proposal they gave us," said John Coli Jr., President of Teamsters Local 727. "This isn't about the company saving money. This is about management wanting to break the backs of hardworking men and women."

Alderwoods, which is owned by funeral industry giant Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI) and operates under the Dignity brand name, replaced the 17 employees' union health care with more expensive and less comprehensive coverage through the company. By placing covered members back into the union health care plan, SCI would save money on benefit contributions. The covered employees also would save thousands of dollars each year.

Since members accepted wage freezes and cuts in their contract three years ago, SCI's financial situation has rebounded, with its stock prices nearly doubling in the last two years. The Houston, Texas-based corporation is the largest provider of death-care products and services in North America, operating more than 2,000 funeral homes.

"All our members want is their health care back and to be treated with dignity," Coli said.

If the company refuses to budge on its unreasonable proposal, the members will be forced to take a strike authorization vote. The current three-year contract expires June 30.

"We want to have time to alert families of the possible labor dispute because our members care about the people they serve," Coli said. "Our funeral directors have spent years cultivating strong relationships with families. These are not nameless, faceless workers; these men and women are integral parts of their communities."

The four funeral homes that would be affected by a labor dispute are:
Weinstein Funeral Home, 111 Skokie Blvd., Wilmette, IL
Lauterburg-Oehler Funeral Home, 2000 E. Northwest Hwy., Arlington Heights, IL
Oehler Funeral Home, 2099 Miner St., Des Plaines, IL
Mount Auburn Funeral Home, 4101 S. Oak Park Ave., Stickney, IL

Teamsters Local 727 represents more than 6,000 workers in the Chicago area.

SOURCE Teamsters Local 727