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Some find giant rat placed at funeral home disrespectful

By By Roche Madden
Published On: May 09 2014 09:43:00 AM CDT
Funeral, casket, death, mourning

iStock / undy

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KTVI) -

Some people think a St. Louis, Missouri, union crossed the line and was disrespectful to the dead and their families.

A giant inflatable rat was placed in front of the Kutis Funeral Home in south St. Louis County to protest non-union work while funeral services were going on inside.

Chuck Grace saw the protestors and the rat. "It was a big old rat, 10-12 foot tall," Grace said.

He said it happened on Tuesday. Grace, a former union member, was working across the street at some apartments when he saw protestors and the big inflatable rat. Grace said, "Disrespectful just not only to the dead folks, but the folks coming here, too. They got family and they got feelings too. The last thing they want to see, how would you like it if it was you?"

People with Kutis declined to be interviewed on camera, but said after reviewing several bids, it did select a non-union paving company to do work on the parking lot because of price and quality of work. Plus, there was a personal connection between the Kutis family and the company.

Kutis also said since the 1940s, they've employed union embalmers and drivers. The funeral home owner thought the protest and inflatable rat were tasteless and tacky.

When Laborers Union Local 110 business manager Don Willey was asked about his response to people who thought the rat was disrespectful, he answered, "How does it disrespect the dead and their families?"

He said the giant rat and protest were used to educate people that Kutis hired non-union workers and to encourage the public not to do business with the funeral home.

No one seemed to disagree the union has a right to protest. Margie Simon's late father worked for Kutis and was a union member.

Simon said, "I mean, it's just tasteless. I wouldn't want a giant rat at my loved one's funeral, even (with) my father being a union member. That would upset me terribly to have a big rat outside the funeral home."

Willey said they may return to protest again because work on the parking lot is not finished. Will they return with the rat? Willey replied, "I didn't say that." He added his members get funeral benefits and he wants them to know about Kutis hiring the non-union workers.

Kutis also said their customers thought the whole thing was inappropriate.

For full disclosure, this story's author is a member of a union.