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Union says funeral home using court system for PR

July 20, 2013 at 12:21 PM   |   Comments

CHICAGO, July 20 (UPI) -- A union official said a Chicago funeral home company is using the court system as a public relations tool with trumped up allegations against striking workers.

"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 Coli, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 727, which represents 59 funeral home workers who are striking against Service Corporation International, a funeral home company with 16 Dignity Memorial Home outlets in Chicago.

A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 2 to review allegations that striking workers have been taunting company personnel while they are working with grieving family members, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday. The company has accused union members of laughing in close proximity to a family that was grieving the death of a child, the Tribune reported.

The strikers were also accused of using a bullhorn to shout profanity while another family was attempting to make arrangements for their grandmother's funeral, the Tribune reported.

"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," Coli said, referring to the charges and to County Cook Circuit Court Judge Thomas Allen, who refused Friday to grant a temporary injunction that would stop union members from picketing.

"We felt it was imperative [to stop picketing] 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," Michael said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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