Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In Re: Claim of William C. Miller, et al., No. B-113064.
Dale E. Williams, with him Donald C. Winson, Frederick J. Rerko and Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, for appellant.
Sydney Reuben, Assistant Attorney General, with him Israel Packel, Attorney General, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
This is an appeal filed by the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) from an order (decision No. B-113064) of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board), dated June 14, 1972, in which the adjudication of the Board's referee was affirmed, thereby making William C. Miller (Miller) eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.
This case had its beginning on July 1, 1970, when Alcoa sent a letter to the employes of its New Kensington plant advising them that for economic reasons Alcoa had decided to "phase out jobbing operations" at that plant by March 31, 1971. In addition to the usual statement of regrets concerning this unpleasant news, Alcoa advised its employes that "[e]ach person's situation will be discussed with him by Personnel people during the phase-out period, which will begin as soon as possible." Approximately 1,400 people worked at the New Kensington plant, and the record indicates that it was the intent of the company to eliminate approximately 1,000 jobs.
Miller (born in December 1912) had been employed by Alcoa for slightly more than 33 years at the time of the July 1970 notice letter. He was a semiskilled mechanic receiving a wage of $3.68 per hour. Miller was laid off on March 12, 1971, and he filed an application for unemployment compensation benefits on March 13, 1971. On April 1, 1971, Miller accepted early retirement.
Subsequent to the 1970 notice letter, the United Steel Workers of America, Local 302 (Union), and Alcoa entered into an agreement which provided that the normal method of terminating employes by seniority at the time of shutdown would not be followed, and that employes
with sufficient service would be given the opportunity to elect early retirement. Pursuant to this agreement the employes electing early retirement would receive, in addition to their full pension (in Miller's case $215 per month), a supplemental pension of $100 per month payable until each employe was eligible for maximum social security benefits at age 65. This supplemental payment was to become effective with pension payments on and after April 1, 1971. In addition, the agreement provided that the employes would have the option of refusing early retirement, and in accordance with certain seniority provisions, could "bump"*fn1 into other jobs which might be available at other Alcoa nearby plants.
The Bureau of Employment Security (Bureau) originally ruled that Miller was eligible for unemployment compensation benefits for the period from March 12, 1971 until April 1, 1971 (the date of his early retirement) but that he was ineligible for benefits after that date. Apparently because Miller's situation was typical, on appeal to the referee, his claim was made the principal one for the establishment of the claims of other employes similarly situated. The referee found (and the record supports) that Miller was led to believe that if he exercised his "bumping" privileges and thereafter retired, he would lose the $100 supplemental benefit mentioned above. Therefore, the referee decided that Miller's ...