CHICAGO, June 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Teamsters Local 727-represented funeral directors/embalmers and livery drivers at four Alderwoods funeral homes are being forced to prepare to strike because the company refuses to give back the workers' union health and welfare benefits.
"All our members want is their health care back and to be treated with dignity," said John Coli Jr., President of Teamsters Local 727. "Our members will agree to dozens of contact demands and even accept the company's proposed five-year wage freeze if management will put our members back into the union's health and welfare coverage. Our offer is more than reasonable, but management still insists on being unreasonable."
Alderwoods, which is owned by funeral industry giant Service Corporation International (NYSE:SCI) and operates under the Dignity brand name, replaced the 17 employees' union health care with more expensive and less comprehensive coverage through the company. By placing covered members back into the union health care plan, SCI would save money on benefit contributions. The employees also would save thousands of dollars each year.Management's proposed five-year wage freeze for the Alderwoods workers comes on the heels of three-year wage freezes and cuts. "Our members took pay freezes and cuts three years ago because the company was struggling in a down economy. Over the last two years, SCI's stock has almost doubled," Coli said. "This is no longer just about the company saving money. This is about SCI wanting to break the backs of hardworking men and women." Alderwoods employees are scheduled to take a strike vote on June 16. The current three-year contract expires June 30. Weinstein (111 Skokie Blvd., Wilmette, IL), Lauterburg-Oehler (2000 E. Northwest Hwy., Arlington Heights), Oehler (2099 Miner St., Des Plaines) and Mount Auburn (4101 S. Oak Park Ave., Stickney) are the four Alderwoods funeral homes that would be affected by a labor dispute. Last week Teamsters rallied in support of the Alderwoods employees at Weinstein Funeral Home in Wilmette, Ill. "Our members know that we are behind them all the way, and now the public knows, too," Coli said. "We have received nothing but positive feedback. Our peaceful show of solidarity resonated with the community."