If you thought Westboro Baptist Church had a monopoly on despicable behavior, such as demonstrating at cemeteries during funerals for fallen heroes, then you haven’t met the Teamsters. The Washington Free Beacon reports that goons from Local 727 have been picketing funeral homes in the Chicago area, shouting obscenities at workers and mourners.
A judge finally interceded last week after strikers disrupted a child’s funeral with laughter and taunted grieving family members. The Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District, granted a temporary restraining order against the union on behalf of SCI Illinois Services, Inc., one of the nation’s largest funeral home chains.
Larry Michael, managing director for SCI, said in a statement:
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. 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.
One form of abuse the strikers have resorted to is the use of bullhorns to drown out funeral services. In one case, Teamster driver Lester Plewa is reported as having bellowed at a dying man planning his arrangements with family members, “We will be here for the visitation; we will be here for your funeral.”
In its injunction, the court 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.”
The Teamsters have been on strike since July 1 after rejecting SCI’s offer of 9% raises for all union members over the next two years.
Secretary-Treasurer John T. Coli, one of Illinois’ most influential labor leaders, heads the 6,800-member union. Coli also brokered the union’s endorsement of Barack Obama during his then-long shot campaign for the 2008 Democratic nomination — a turning point in the 2008 primary.
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.
Coli has since arranged other political endorsements that have worked in the union’s favor. The Teamsters were the only major labor organization to endorse President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral campaign. Emanuel pledged to crack down on unions to help resolve Chicago’s then-$650 million budget deficit.
The court will decide on a permanent injunction against the union on Friday.