Longtime Local 727 Member Howard Switalla Volunteers to Assist in New York during Coronavirus Pandemic

| April 27, 2020

Not all heroes wear capes.  Some heroes wear a suit and tie and went to mortuary school.  While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge through the United States, Chicagoland area funeral directors, embalmers, livery drivers, and grave diggers, over 350 of which are members of Teamsters Local 727, continue to put the needs of grieving families ahead of their own.  This altruism comes at a time when simply doing their jobs comes at a great risk to themselves.

In response to the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has classified workers’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 on the industry type and contact exposure within six feet of people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with the coronavirus.  .  OSHA has divided job tasks into four levels of risk exposure: low, medium, high, and very high.  According to OSHA, mortuary workers involved in preparing bodies for burial or cremation of people known to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19 at the time of death fall under the High Exposure Risk category and morgue employees performing autopsies fall under the Very High Exposure Risk category.  These are the same levels of risk experienced by those in the healthcare professions.

While funeral ceremonies can be rescheduled for later dates, it is recommended that burials and cremations be completed as soon as possible. As such 727’s funeral industry members have been deemed “essential employees” exempt from stay at home orders in place around the nation.  In order to provide assistance in the different areas of the country that are experiencing higher rates of coronavirus infection and fatalities during this time, those in the funeral service have been asked to volunteer in these regions and share their expertise.

When Service Corporation International (SCI) called upon its employees to volunteer in the New York Market, long-time Local 727 funeral director and embalmer Howard Switalla immediately answered the call.  Howard selflessly offered to help his funeral director brothers and sisters in Long Island, New York, one of the heaviest hit markets in the country.  Howard has been tirelessly working long shifts and embalms at least two bodies each day, often times more.  “It’s easy to get lost in all the negative news, but stories like Howard’s demonstrate the positive difference that one person can make.  It’s inspiring to see members in the funeral industry adapt to best serve these families during this sorrowful time. Teamsters Local 727 is lucky to have selfless members like Howard who go above and beyond to answer the call to help our nation during this worldwide crisis,” said John Coli Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 727.  Howard expects to return home soon, where he will self-quarantine the recommended fourteen days before returning to work.

Members with questions should contact Business Representative Nick Micalletti at (847) 696-7500.
Nothing in this article should be read as the union’s waiver of any legal argument, position or grievance(s), or as a waiver of any rights, arguments, or defenses under any contract, collective bargaining agreement, or applicable law. The union does not forfeit its right to make any and all supplemental arguments.


Category: FUNERAL, Union News

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