Funeral directors, drivers, strike in Chicago

July 2, 2013 at 12:46 PM
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CHICAGO, July 2 (UPI) -- Employees at 16 funeral homes in Chicago said they would start a strike Tuesday after talks with Service Corporation International failed to yield a contract.

SCI uses the Dignity Memorial brand. Their 16 funeral homes in the Chicago area have 59 employees.

Members of Teamsters Local 727, which has represented drivers and funeral directors since 1946, said members rejected a contract offer in a vote held June 30.

The union said the company, which is based in Houston, was dead set on eliminating pension benefits and bargaining agreement rights.

The company insisted in negotiations that it wanted to jettison employee pensions, employee discipline procedures, seniority provisions, the authority of independent arbitration concerning union and management disputes and union representative access to employees, the union said in a statement.

"Whether we can afford [the union proposals], that's not the issue.  We haven't pled poverty in negotiations, and we're not going to now," the union quoted SCI attorney and lead negotiator Amy Devadanam as saying during a bargaining committee meeting on June 28.

"We reject your last, best and final offer.  It doesn't address our primary concern, which is exiting the pension plan and employee contributions to health care," Devadanam reportedly said.

"The company admits it can easily afford to maintain these workers' benefits. They just simply won't because their business model calls for them to siphon more money out of the Chicago community and send it back to Houston," said Teamsters Local 727 Secretary-Treasurer John Coli.

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