ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Van for the Eternal Footman

Earlier this week, the New York Times published this article and this video about Mike Thomas, a man who retrieves dead bodies for the county morgue in Detroit.  The article and video paint a grim picture of Detriot.  The deal and Thomas' job description for tax purposes:

Call the job dirty. Call it 14 bucks the hard way — $14 a human body, $9 an animal. He said he made $14,000 last year. He made most of it at night.

His tax forms officially read “body technician.” Unofficially, Mike Thomas calls himself body snatcher, grim reaper, night stalker, bag man. Whatever you call it, it is one man’s life.

A few days later, the NY Times reports that, after the story was published, Thomas was "supsended indefinitely without pay pending investigation" by his employer Professoinal Removal Services.

“I told Mike not to talk to the media, and he did it anyway,” said the company’s owner, Eric Orr. “It’s company policy not to talk about the job.”

But Mr. Orr said the policy is not in writing.

“He really didn’t make the city look too good,” he added. “I saw the video.”

Mr. Thomas, 36, said that he might not have gone to college, but that he knew the meaning of suspended indefinitely: “Permanent vacation.”

Mr. Orr’s county contract is up at the end of this month, but the answering machine for Professional Removal Services advertises a position available: body technician.

“I was just telling my life story,” Mr. Thomas said by telephone. “This is America, right? Don’t we still got freedom of speech?”

He has three children, no car and, now, no job — a bad combination when you live in the poorest big city in America.

The body job paid $14 dollars a corpse, though it did have its drawbacks: picking body parts from Dumpsters, ferrying corpses in an unrefrigerated van.

Mr. Thomas said he hoped his recent notoriety had hatched an entertainment career. Record people have been to his producer’s Web site, he said, and filmmakers are pitching the idea of a reality show based on his life.

“I got some other options,” Mr. Thomas said.

[Meredith R. Miller]

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