Funeral Industry News

SCI Gets Another Slap From The State of Illinois

November 17, 2013
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SCI Gets Another Slap From The State of Illinois

Employers, the Illinois legislature is sending you more signals that the deck is stacked against you. The lawmakers passed a bill designed to squeeze a business at the behest of organized labor leaders who are at an impasse in contract negotiations with the business.

The employer being targeted is SCI Illinois Services, part of a Texas-based funeral home chain that operates 16 facilities in Chicago and the suburbs. Teamsters Local 727, which represents SCI employees, took the employees out on strike in July. When the company didn’t buckle, the Teamsters tried to return to work, but the company imposed a lockout. The funeral homes continue to operate without the Teamsters workers. That’s a dispute for management and labor to work out. But Local 727 decided to lean on its pals in Springfield to squeeze SCI.

The House and Senate approved legislation that authorizes the state comptroller to suspend or revoke the license of a funeral home operator if the comptroller has “reason to believe” a labor lockout is negatively impacting consumers. The intent is obvious. As the Teamsters noted on their strike blog, “The point of this bill is to end the lockout and bring (SCI) back to the table in order to negotiate fairly on the next contract.”

SCI says the bill is unconstitutional because it would pre-empt the National Labor Relations Act. Beyond that, Illinois lawmakers have no business trying to muscle an employer into giving in to union demands.

State Sen. Tony Munoz, D-Chicago, a lead sponsor of the bill, says it is all about “consumer protection.” The pretext is that a lockout of unionized funeral directors and drivers adversely impacts the customers who arrange for funeral services.

But there’s no genuine effort here at consumer protection. The comptroller’s office wouldn’t be authorized to pull the license to conduct funerals. It would have authority to pull the license to sell package deals on funerals to be held in the future. This is just a bid to hit the company in its wallet.

The dispute has gotten ugly. The Illinois Appellate Court ordered the union not to obstruct funeral proceedings after members allegedly disrupted services, shouting through bullhorns and blocking traffic.

SCI has offered a 9 percent raise over two years, wants to replace the workers’ traditional pension plan with a 401(k) plan, and also seeks health care changes.

One more time: Leave that settlement to the negotiators. The bill passed by the legislature sends a terrible message to employers in the state that already has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation.

Gov. Pat Quinn, you can send a message that you understand the people who create jobs in Illinois are not the enemy. Veto the bill.