FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DONALD E. ZIEGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
The instant case presents a straight-forward factual dispute. We are required to determine whether the Bituminous Coal Operators Association agreed to fund the health care costs and other non-pension benefits of pensioners of eight former signatory employers to various National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreements. After consideration of the language of the contracts, the structure, bargaining history, and the direct and circumstantial evidence of record concerning the intent of the parties, we hold the evidence preponderates that the BCOA agreed to fund the health benefits of the individual plaintiffs for the term of the agreement to gain acceptance of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1988 by the United Mine Workers of America. We further hold that the decision of the Trustees of the 1974 Benefit Plan to deny benefits to the individual plaintiffs was arbitrary and capricious, and that the Trustees are precluded from re-litigating in this court the definition of "no longer in business" which was resolved in District 29, UMWA v. UMWA 1974 Benefit Plan and Trust, 826 F.2d 280 (4th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 935, 108 S. Ct. 1111, 99 L. Ed. 2d 272 (1988). The 1974 Benefit Plan is required to provide health care and other non-pension benefits where, as here, a retiree's last signatory employer is no longer a signatory to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement. Judgment will be entered for the International Union, United Mine Workers of America, Districts 2, 4, 5 and 6, the individual plaintiffs and the class, against the Bituminous Coal Operators' Association, Inc. and the United Mine Workers of America 1974 Benefit Plan and Trust.
(1) The individual plaintiffs at civil action Nos. 86-2638, 88-546 and 88-1842, and the individual defendants at No. 88-545, are retired or disabled coal miners, surviving spouses or dependents of retired or disabled coal miners, who were last employed in the coal industry by Barnes & Tucker Coal Company, Y & O Coal Company, Menallen Coal Company, G.M. & W. Coal Company, Marmon Coal Company, Penn Pocahontas Coal Company, Canterbury Coal Company or Coalite, Inc.
(2) The United Mine Workers of America International Union, Districts 2, 4, 5 and 6, and Local 1313, United Mine Workers of America, are labor organizations within the meaning of Section 2(5) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 152(5). These organizations were the collective bargaining representatives of the employees of the eight employers in dispute.
(3) The Bituminous Coal Operators' Association, Inc. (BCOA) is a multi-employer bargaining association that currently represents approximately 16 companies in collective bargaining with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The BCOA and the UMWA negotiate the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (NBCWA), a collective bargaining agreement that governs the terms and conditions of employment for the coal miners of the BCOA-member companies and companies that sign "me too" agreements with the UMWA.
(4) The BCOA has for approximately 40 years negotiated the national agreement with the UMWA. National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreements were executed in 1950, 1971, 1974, 1978, 1981, 1984 and 1988.
(5) The UMWA 1974 Benefit Plan and Trust is an employee welfare benefit plan within the meaning of Section 3(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1002(1). The plan is an irrevocable trust created, perpetuated and funded pursuant to the National Bituminous Wage Agreements of 1974, 1978, 1981, 1984 and 1988. In general, the 1974 Benefit Plan provides health and other non-pension benefits to miners who retired after January 1, 1976 and who meet certain eligibility criteria.
(6) Jurisdiction is based on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1132, Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue properly lies with this court under 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (e)(2) and the parties do not contend otherwise.
(7) The International Union, Districts, Local 1313, and the individual plaintiffs, who are or were vested in a pension under the 1974 Pension Plan and the spouses or dependents of such persons, seek injunctive relief to compel the 1974 Benefit Plan to provide health and other non-pension benefits, pay all unpaid medical bills and establish an escrow fund to insure payment of such benefits. In seeking equitable relief, plaintiffs bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence (a) success on the merits, (b) irreparable harm, (c) defendants will not suffer substantial harm from the grant of an injunction and (d) the public interest, if any. The parties stipulated that the instant proceeding shall constitute a trial on the merits pursuant to Rule 65(a)(2).
(8) Plaintiffs contend that the individual plaintiffs, who are retired or disabled miners (or their dependents), were last employed as coal miners for one of eight former signatory employers to various National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreements. The wage agreements from 1974 to the present guaranteed health and non-pension benefits to all pensioners for life when benefits were not paid by their last employer. When the eight employers failed to execute the NBCWA, the BCOA agreed to fund the benefits of the plaintiffs for the period of the 1988 agreement to prevent cessation of benefits because their former employers were no longer legally obligated to do so. Further, plaintiffs contend that the decision of the 1974 Benefit Plan to deny benefits to the individual plaintiffs was arbitrary and capricious because the Trustees (a) misconstrued the intent of the UMWA and the BCOA; (b) improperly interpreted the plan and trust documents; and (c) failed to enforce various contractual provisions to require the BCOA to fund the benefits. Finally, plaintiffs argue that the 1974 Benefit Plan is precluded from litigating in this court the phrase "no longer in business" of Article XX of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreements and Article IIE.4. of the 1974 Benefit Plan and Trust following the decision in District 29, United Mine Workers of America v. 1974 Benefit Plan & Trust, 826 F.2d 280 (4th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 935, 108 S. Ct. 1111, 99 L. Ed. 2d 272 (1988).
(9) Article XX(c)(3)(ii) of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1988 provides as follows:
For purposes of determining eligibility under the 1974 Benefit Plan and Trust, an Employer is considered to be "no longer in business" only if the Employer:
(a) has ceased all mining operations and has ceased employing persons under this Wage Agreement with no reasonable expectation that such operations will start up again; and