Possible Strike Looming for SCI Funeral Directors in Chicago

June 28, 2010
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imageThe Teamsters and a funeral home chain are coming down to the wire in contract negotiations, raising the specter of a strike by funeral directors and drivers at 17 Chicago-area sites.

The three-year contract between Chicago’s Teamsters Local 727 and Houston-based Service Corporation International expires at the end of the day June 30, and union officials said the two sides remain far apart on economics.

SCI wants to freeze or cut wages — and exit the union pension fund — while the union side wants a 6 percent salary bump the first year of a two-year deal, and a continuation of the pension, said Teamsters spokeswoman Maggie Jenkins. The contract now ending included wage freezes and cuts, she added.

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“At this point we’re really hoping we can get this settled; obviously we have to be aware that a strike could be possible, but we’re doing everything we can to get this settled before it comes to that, because no one wants that,” Jenkins said.

Negotiating sessions are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, she said.

A spokeswoman for SCI, a publicly traded company, had no immediate comment.

SCI’s corporate web site describes the firm as “North America’s largest single provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services.”

The company runs funeral homes from Oak Lawn to Oakbrook Terrace to Wilmette — with well-known names that include Blake-Lamb, Piser and William H. Scott — and Local 727 represents several dozen employees at the facilities, according to the Teamsters.

There’s never been a funeral home strike in the area, although union members have been close to walking out before, according to the Teamsters. But a decade ago the Teamsters caused outrage by picketing a nonunion funeral home during services.

There has not been a strike authorization vote as of yet. “We still have more days of negotiations before we’d take it to a strike vote,” Jenkins said.

Below is the news release put out Thursday by the Teamsters:

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS ENTER FINAL STAGES FOR DIRECTORS AT 17 AREA FUNERAL HOMES

Labor Disputes Could Be on Horizon for Facilities Owned by Funeral Industry Giant SCI

(CHICAGO) ? After seven meetings between Teamsters Local 727 and funeral industry giant Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI), contract negotiations are at a standstill as the current contract for funeral directors, embalmers and drivers nears expiration on Thursday, July 1, 2010.

?Our members have worked and lived in these communities for decades. It?s appalling how this company comes in with an outside agenda while putting up a fa

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