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I-Team: Boston Cemetery Workers Forced To Take Drastic Pay Cuts

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s hard labor.

Every day, nine workers maintain hundreds of thousands of graves at the New Calvary, Mt. Calvary, Mt. Benedict and St. Mary’s Cemeteries in Boston.

Bob Lawler, the owner of Lawler and Crosby Funeral Home, says he’s known the workers for decades. “They’ve been there 30, 35 years. And these guys are the best. They know exactly what they’re doing.”

But the workers were forced to take drastic pay cuts: A 13 percent slash in pay for two straight years. This reduced their base salaries down to almost $30,000 a year with deep cuts in benefits as well.

A worker, who asked us to hide his identity for fear he would be fired for speaking out, describes the pay cuts as devastating. “It’s just done in such a cold, calculated way,” He says. “It’s unconscionable what they have done to this workforce.”

He’s talking about the bosses, the 12 board members of the Boston Catholic Cemetery Association.

They cut the workers’ pay, but they keep paying themselves as a group more than two hundred thousand dollars a year for working only 5, 7 or 12 hours a week.

Board member Joe Leonard didn’t want to talk about their priorities, and told the I-Team, “Please leave now or I’ll call the police and have you arrested for trespassing.”

The I-Team went looking for Boston Catholic Cemetery Association Board President Walter May. May pays himself $36,000 a year for 12 hours of work a week. He also hired his grandson after laying off three longtime workers. We found May at his insurance company. He told the I-Team, “It’s none of your business. You know, we’re a private business. I really don’t know what Channel 4 is poking around in our business for.”

But State Senator Mike Rush says it is other people’s business. “They are a not-for-profit, and because of that I think every taxpayer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a right to know.”

State Rep. Ed Coppinger says he wants to know, “What’s going on behind the scenes and are their finances in order?”

Sen. Rush and Rep. Coppinger are pushing a bill that would force all cemetery associations to open their books.

For the workers, it’s a matter of financial survival.

The worker tells us, “It’s heartbreaking, it just breaks your heart. It’s crushing.”

The Cemetery Association’s lawyer says the pay cuts were the result of a union contract bargained in good faith.

Sen. Rush and Rep. Coppinger have now asked the Inspector General and Attorney General to investigate.

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