GLENDALE HEIGHTS, Ill., July 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- SCI Illinois Services, Inc. brought legal action against the Teamsters Local 727 and its leadership, asking for a temporary restraining order as well as preliminary and permanent injunctions. The request comes after repeated incidents of gross insensitivity and harassment directed at grieving families by Teamsters' picketers outside of funeral homes affected by the union's current strike against the company.
"Families come to us at the most difficult times of their lives; they are emotional, vulnerable, distraught and seeking comfort and solace," said Larry Michael, managing director for SCI Illinois Services, Inc. "While we recognize and respect the Teamsters' right to lawfully picket, we are shocked at the level of cruelty, insensitivity and obscenities being hurled at bereaved family members. Some of these picketers have chosen to make grieving families the target of their cowardly attacks. To protect the bereaved against this kind of reprehensible behavior, we have sought intervention of the court."
Some incidents cited in the complaint include:
- During the service of a young child who had passed away from cancer, picketers laughed, smiled and joked within immediate vicinity of the only public entrance. They were asked to move by a police officer who had been called – then moved back immediately in front of the building and its entrance after the officer left.
- While escorting a woman and her father who were attempting to plan her recently deceased mother's funeral, an employee escorting them was taunted and called names, the three of them were taunted with a bullhorn and siren sound, and intimidated by an unleashed German Shepherd.
- Picketers used a bullhorn to shout profane and sexually explicit taunts while a woman and her four- and five-year-old sons attempted to make arrangements for her grandmother's funeral causing the family to become visibly upset.
- A group of picketers temporarily blocked a grieving widow's vehicle as she tried to exit the parking lot.
- Picketers have repeatedly used the siren function on a bull horn, compressed air horns, car horns and car alarms to create loud disturbances during arrangements and services.
- Picketers threatened to blow up the house of a retired sheriff's officer hired to work private security at the funeral home.
About the Strike
The Teamsters Local 727 called the strike after declining the company's contract offer. "We offered a very fair contract with a generous wage increase," said Michael.
A significant number of the funeral directors in this group already make more than $100,000 per year. The contract offer by the company offers a 9 percent wage increase over the next two years, including 6 percent in the first year and an additional 3 percent in year two.
In addition to maintaining vested pension benefits, under the company's offer the Teamster pension fund would be replaced with a 401K plan. The 401K features a dollar-for-dollar company match up to the first 4% of annual income. SCI Illinois Services, Inc. is looking to replace the pension plan with a 401K for a variety of reasons:
- Serious Underfunding of Teamster Pension Plan. The recent history of significant underfunding is alarming. Recent communications from the Teamsters show a variety of underfunded amounts, with the most recent June 2013 actuarial letter showing $68 million in underfunding.
- Rapidly Escalating Costs. The pension contributions have been escalating rapidly, climbing 39 percent in the last three years and more than tripling in the last ten. "The costs are going up at such an alarming rate that it just reinforces our fears about the overall viability of the pension fund," said Michael.
- Litigation Considerations. These funds have been a source of rampant litigation initiated by the Teamsters, costing the company millions of dollars.
Because of its serious concerns about conduct relating to Teamsters' benefits funds, SCI Illinois Services, Inc. filed a lawsuit in federal court in late 2011. That lawsuit is currently pending and involves allegations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).
The company's proposal asks that employees begin to contribute to their own healthcare costs, as is commonplace throughout the company and with employers across the nation. Under the company's proposal, employee contributions would only occur if the Teamsters' Fund increases its monthly premiums after March 1, 2014. Even then, the company has proposed that contributions would be capped at $50 per month in 2014.
About SCI Illinois Services, Inc.
SCI Illinois Services, Inc. manages the Dignity Memorial® network of funeral homes and cemeteries across Chicagoland. It is part of Service Corporation International, headquartered in Houston, Texas. For more information about Service Corporation International, please visit our website at www.sci-corp.com. For more information about the Dignity Memorial network, please visit www.dignitymemorial.com.
SOURCE SCI Illinois Services, Inc.