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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Some people think a local union crossed 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 Lemay Ferry 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 the 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 1940’s they’ve employed union embalmers and drivers. The funeral home owner thought the protest and inflatable rat were tasteless and tacky.

Reporter Roche Madden went to Laborers Union Local 110 to find out what business manager Don Willey had to say about the protest and the rat.

Madden asked, “What’s your response to the people who thought it was disrespectful to the dead and their families?”

Willey 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 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. Readers and viewer should know, in full disclosure, Madden is a member of a union.