On Friday, the Appellate Court of Illinois will decide whether to make permanent a temporary injunction it had issued barring the Teamsters Union from picketing 16 Chicago-area funeral homes after its members had reportedly disrupted funerals and harassed mourners.
SCI Illinois Services, Inc. sought the court’s intervention after striking members of Teamsters Local 727, representing the company’s funeral directors and drivers, allegedly badgered grieving families and friends.
In scenes reminiscent of Westboro Baptist Church members protesting military funerals, “The company testified in its filing that union members blocked grieving family members from leaving its parking lot, used bullhorns to shout obscenities at workers and mourners, and unleashed a German Shepard on a dead woman’s daughter and husband,” according to The Washington Free Beacon.
“We are grateful that the court agreed to issue this temporary restraining order, and we are hopeful that it will help protect grieving families who are experiencing the most difficult times of their lives,” Larry Michael, managing director for SCI Illinois Services, Inc., said in a press release. “While we recognize and respect the Teamsters’ right to lawfully picket, we have been shocked and saddened by their attempts to make grieving families the target of the cruel and outrageous attacks.”
The union even reportedly disrupted a child’s funeral.
The funeral home was eventually forced to call the police when picketers allegedly disrupted a child’s funeral with laughter. The officer asked the Teamsters to leave, but protesters returned when he drove away.
Company representatives also alleged that when a dying man attempted to make arrangements for his own funeral, Teamster driver Lester Plewa shouted into a bullhorn, “We will be here for the visitation; we will be here for your funeral.”
The Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District, ordered the Teamsters to “refrain from conveying any actual or veiled threats against any person, also, refrain from obstructing, hindering, impeding or blocking any person’s entry to or exit from any funeral site or any facility containing a funeral site.”
Teamsters Local 727 went on strike July 1 after rejecting a nine percent raise over the next two years.
The Teamsters, through its Secretary-Treasurer John T. Coli, endorsed then-long shot presidential candidate Barack Obama early on in the 2008 Democratic primary, an arrangement that apparently worked out to the union’s advantage. The Free Beacon noted:
Obama, then a junior senator of Illinois, pledged in private meetings with Teamster leadership to end federal oversight of the powerful union, which had come under scrutiny for its ties to the mafia under Jimmy Hoffa, father to current Teamsters President James Hoffa Jr. Both sides denied any quid pro quo in the deal.
The rift over wages isn’t the only dispute the funeral home chain has with the Teamsters. It filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against the union when it allegedly attempted to illegally hike the company’s pension fund contributions, a case which is still pending.
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