SCI Wants Temporary Restraining Order On Striking Funeral Directors, Judge Declines
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Allen has set Aug. 2 as the hearing date for a preliminary injunction sought by funeral home operator Service Corporation International (SCI) against a union it accuses of harassing grieving families while picketing during an ongoing strike.
The judge on Friday declined to grant a temporary restraining order against Teamsters Local 727.
The union walked out July 1 seeking better wages and benefits for its 59 members working at SCI’s 16 Dignity Memorial Home establishments in Chicagoland.
“Although we regretted the necessity of asking the court to intervene in this matter, we felt it was imperative due to the repeated incidents of gross insensitivity, harassment and profane comments directed toward grieving families,” said Larry Michael, managing director for SCI Illinois Services Inc.
“We sincerely hope that the funeral professionals participating in the picketing will have the courage to urge their union to halt these cruel and offensive attacks directed at innocent funeral home patrons who are already struggling to cope with a serious loss.”
In its application, Houston-based SCI accused picketers of smiling and joking “within immediate vicinity of the only public entrance … during the service of a young child who had passed away from cancer.”
It also said picketers used bullhorns to “shout profane and sexually explicit taunts while a woman and her 4- and 5-year-old sons attempted to make arrangements for her grandmother’s funeral.”
“This is another example of Dignity Memorial attempting to use the court system to fuel their media relations program. They know that they can force their paid employees to make allegations that they can mock up into a complaint,” said John T. Coli, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 727, which represents the strikers. “Unfortunately in America, a $3 billion corporate bully with unlimited legal resources can cynically use the court system. Fortunately the judge has seen through this.”
Funeral home directors at the 16 Dignity Memorial funeral homes went on strike after their union failed to secure a 3 percent wage increase per year for five years and a $ 1,100 monthly pension plan.
Teamsters turned down SCI’s offer of a 9 percent wage increase over the next two years — 6 percent in the first year and 3 percent the next.
SCI had also proposed to replace the pension with a 401(K) plan stating that the former was not only costly and underfunded, but also was a “source of rampant litigation initiated by Teamsters.”
As of 2010, the median pay for the 29,300 funeral directors in the U.S. was $54,330 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.