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Workers at Cemetery for Notable African-Americans Strike Over Refusal to Negotiate

$3 Billion Service Corporation International Threatens No Pay Increases Unless Employees Abandon Their Union

Landover, Md. (May 13, 2017) – Workers at National Harmony Park Cemetery – a final resting place for numerous notable African-Americans – went on strike today in protest of discriminatory treatment due to their support for a union.

Workers at the Landover, Md., cemetery voted to join the Laborers’ International Union of North America in March 2016 in pursuit of better pay and health insurance. Rather than negotiate in good faith as required by law, cemetery owners threatened that workers would not receive pay increases unless they abandoned their union.

The cemetery is owned by Service Corporation International, a $3-billion Wall Street traded firm headquartered in Houston, Texas. Among its well-known brands is Dignity Memorial. The company operates 1,500 funeral homes and 450 cemeteries and has 24,000 employees. According to 2016 proxy statements filed by the company, CEO Thomas L. Ryan received $10.3 million in compensation, or nearly $5,000 an hour.

“The men and women who care for National Harmony Park aren’t seeking thousands of dollars an hour in pay increases. They just want a fair shake and for the corporation to follow the law and bargain in good faith,” said Xiomara Vasquez of LIUNA Local 572. “Just as the workers ensure respect for those who rest in the cemetery and their families, Service Corporation should respect these workers.”

Among those interred at National Harmony Park are Elizabeth Keckley, civil rights activist and seamstress to Mary Todd Lincoln, and Henry Vinton Plummer, the first African-America chaplain in the U.S. Army.

The nine employees in the bargaining unit are expected to picket, and the lack of workers on the job may disrupt burials. # LIUNA’s Mid-Atlantic Region includes more than 40,000 workers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Contact: Steve Lanning, 202-409-1000