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Accuride Erie L.P. v. International Union

February 20, 2009

ACCURIDE ERIE L.P., A LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, PLAINTIFF/COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANT,
v.
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE & AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL UNION 1186, A VOLUNTARY UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT/COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sean J. McLaughlin

MEMORANDUM OPINION

McLAUGHLIN, SEAN J., J.

Presently pending before the Court is a "motion to show cause why Accuride should not be held in contempt, or in the alternative, to remand remedial issues to Arbitrator Creo for clarification" filed by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Local Union 1186 ("UAW" or "Union") and the brief in opposition filed by Accuride. The matter is now ripe for disposition.

I. BACKGROUND

In order to place the present dispute in context, it is necessary to provide some procedural and factual background. Plaintiff, Accuride Erie L.P. ("Accuride"), is a limited partnership authorized to conduct business in the State of Pennsylvania. The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Local Union 1186 ("UAW" or "Union") is the exclusive collective bargaining agent for the production and maintenance employees at the Accuride facility in Erie.

In May, 1997, Accuride acquired an aluminum wheel manufacturing plant located in Erie, Pennsylvania, from Kaiser Aluminum Corporation ("Kaiser"). Following the acquisition, Accuride offered former Kaiser employees an opportunity to either enroll in Accuride's insurance benefit program or to "opt out" in favor of continuing to receive medical and life insurance benefits from Kaiser. In April, 2004, Accuride learned that Kaiser had filed an action in bankruptcy court to terminate its post-retirement medical insurance program. Accuride promptly notified the Union of this development, and the Union responded by demanding that Accuride provide medical coverage to the employees who had previously elected to receive Kaiser retiree medical benefits via the irrevokable opt-out.

On June 8, 2004, the Union followed up their demand by filing a grievance, which Accuride denied at each step of the grievance procedure, insisting that the Opt Out Agreements signed by the affected former Kaiser employees were valid, enforceable, and irrevokable. The grievance stated:

The Union protests the Company's actions in violating the current agreement between Accuride Erie and UAW Local 1186.

The Union charges the Company with not allowing eligible employees to enroll and has not provided eligible employees Health Insurance, Life Insurance, Retiree Health Insurance and Retiree Life Insurance.

The Union demands that the Company cease and desist from violating the Contract, make all employees whole for lost benefits, make all employees and retirees whole, including interest, for all expenses, charges and/or debts incurred as a result of the Company's refusal and/or failure to provide all applicable insurances. (See Document 49-3)(emphasis added).

An arbitration hearing was held on the grievance on January 26, 2005, in front of Arbitrator Creo. At the hearing, it is undisputed that the evidence and argument presented by the parties focused entirely on health and life insurance benefits for active Accuride employees. (Hearing Transcript, p. 3). On April 26, 2005, Arbitrator Creo issued an opinion wherein he determined that the former Kaiser employees were eligible for Accuride benefits because, in short, the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the parties failed to incorporate or reference the previous irrevocable opt-outs. Arbitrator Creo's Award stated:

The Employer is ordered to cease and desist from not providing benefits to all employees as provided by the Agreement. Employees are to be made whole for any losses due to the improper denial of benefits. The Arbitrator retains jurisdiction over the implementation of this Award. (See UAW Motion to Show Cause, Exhibit B).

On May 27, 2005, Accuride filed an action in this Court to vacate the Award. The Union counterclaimed, seeking enforcement. On August 11, 2006, this Court issued a memorandum opinion and order wherein I granted summary judgment in favor of UAW after concluding, inter alia, that Arbitrator Creo's Award drew its essence from the language of the collective bargaining agreement. Accuride Erie, LLP v. UAW, Local Union 1186, 445 F.Supp.2d 496 (W.D. Pa. 2006), aff'd, 257 Fed.Appx. 574 (3rd Cir. 2007). Accuride appealed, and on December 11, 2007, the Third Circuit affirmed.

In the instant motion, UAW contends that Accuride has failed to comply with the Award by refusing to provide medical benefits for fourteen former Kaiser employees who were active Accuride employees at the time the grievance was filed and subsequently retired (hereinafter, "Retirees").*fn1 UAW asserts that the original grievance placed the issue of both active and retiree benefits in front of Arbitrator Creo and that, accordingly, Accuride should be held in contempt for refusing to provide benefits for the Retirees.*fn2 Alternately, UAW requests that the matter be ...


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