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GERON v. KENNEDY. (03/14/55)

March 14, 1955

GERON, APPELLANT,
v.
KENNEDY.



Appeal, No. 50, Jan. T., 1955, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Sept. T., 1952, No. 9, in case of Wasil Geron v. Thomas Kennedy, Robert L. Birtley and Mart F. Brennan, Trustees of The Anthracite Health & Welfare Fund. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

Joseph F. Dutka, with him Z. R. Bialkowski, for appellant.

Frank J. Gormley, with him Martin B. Gormley and Robert T. Martin, for appellees.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 381 Pa. Page 98]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

On June 7, 1946, the United Mine Workers of America, as collective bargaining agents for anthracite mine workers in Districts Nos. 1, 7 and 9, entered into an agreement with anthracite operators for the establishment of a trust known as the Anthracite Health and Welfare Fund. According to the terms of the trust, "The Fund shall be used for making payments to mine workers and their dependents and survivors, with respect to (i) wage loss not otherwise compensated at all or adequately under the provisions of Federal or State law and resulting from sickness (temporary disability), permanent disability, death or retirement, and (ii) other related welfare as determined by the Fund. Subject to the stated purposes of the Fund, the Trustees shall have full authority with respect to questions of coverage and eligibility, priorities among classes of benefits, amounts of benefits, methods of providing or arranging for provisional amounts of benefits and all related matters."

Under the authority granted by the above recited provision the Trustees of the Fund declared by resolutions of July 23, 1948 and July 26, 1948, that "a pension of One Hundred Dollars ( $100) per month shall be paid ... to each eligible and qualified member of

[ 381 Pa. Page 99]

    the United Mine Workers of America, Districts 1, 7 and 9, who, on June 1, 1946, attained or thereafter attains the age of 6i years and who has served twenty years in the Anthracite Coal Industry in the State of Pennsylvania and who has retired ... on a date subsequent to June 1, 1946."

On April 18, 1949, the trustees lowered the age requirement to 60 years and by resolution dated January 15, 1954, reduced the monthly pension to $50.

The plaintiff, Wasil Geron, who had reached the age of 68 years and had been employed as a miner for 25 years, made claim for a pension under the provisions of the Trust, but the claim was denied by the trustees because Geron's time of employment in the anthracite mines totaled only 17 years, he having been employed the rest of the time in bituminous mines. The plaintiff brought an action in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County to compel the trustees to pay the claimed pension. The complaint was dismissed and this appeal followed.

It is the contention of the plaintiff that "the eligibility requirements as to age and twenty years' work service in the Coal Industry are reasonable, but any attempt to limit work service to the Anthracite Industry is discriminatory and contrary to the stated purposes of the fund." He thus claims that his years in the bituminous industry should be honored in the computation of time required for eligibility under the Trust Fund. He points out that although the agreement originally stated that "the funds shall be used for making payments to mine workers and their dependents and survivors," it was later amended to read "members of the United Mine Workers of ...


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