Support the locked out SCI Funeral Home Workers

Meet Joel Dodge, he’s an embalmer for the Delmoro Funeral Home in North York, Ontario, but he calls himself an artist – an artist who has to know about pathology and anatomy.

"We try our hardest to make the deceased look good for the families through the hard times they’re going through," says Joel.

He grew up in a small town, around the funeral business, "in a Six Feet Under kind of family," jokes Joel. "I saw my first deceased at age 5." He ran away, but from that moment he knew what he wanted to do.

Joel has been working in the funeral industry now for 6 years; licensed as a funeral director for two (all embalmers in the province need to be licensed funeral directors).

Joel is the first to point out that he has the responsibility of giving grieving families their "last memory" of their loved ones, while the "transfer drivers" who transport the deceased from hospitals and homes to the funeral parlours are the first ones to meet the families in their moment of grief, and that’s "very hard" says Joel. They are responsibilities that Joel and his co-workers take very seriously.

Joel and nearly 30 of his co-workers, embalmers and transfer drivers, were locked out by the employer Dignity Memorial on June 27th. Dignity Memorial Canada is a wholly-owned subsidiary of American funeral industry giant, Service Corporation International (SCI).

SCI, through Dignity Memorial, controls most of the funeral homes in the GTA – and in fact, SCI has a near monopoly over funeral services across North America. The company is no stranger to controversy and criminal investigation, and has been the subject of a 60 Minutes investigation. Despite all of this, SCI grossed over half a billion dollars in profits last year.

"People think that the Jerret family still own the Jerret’s funeral parlour – or that Mr. Rosar is the one attending to their loved ones in the back of the Rosar-Morrison funeral home – but they’re not – Dignity-SCI owns these, and they treat the business like it’s Wal-mart or something," says Doug Power, with SEIU Healthcare.

"Most people don’t realize that Delmoro is the central location for the SCI homes in the GTA – that’s where their loved ones end up, being transported and attended to by our members," adds Power.

Working conditions, the return of sick days, and pay increases in line with the industry are some of the issues for the workers. “They’re (Dignity-SCI) not acknowledging us and what a huge role we play in the funeral industry," says Joel.

"We just want to get a fair deal. We just want to go back to work."

You can see more about locked out SCI worker, Joel Dodge by clicking on the image. Download a copy of this story to share here.

Meet Joel Dodge from SEIU Healthcare on Vimeo.