United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
RONALD A. CUP on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; and UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL, AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, Plaintiffs,
AMPCO-PITTSBURGH CORPORATION, AKERS NATIONAL ROLL COMPANY, and AKERS NATIONAL ROLL COMPANY HEALTH & WELFARE BENEFITS PLAN, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO
J. Schwab United States District Judge
action was brought by Plaintiff Ronald Cup and the United
Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy,
Allied Industrial, and Service Workers International Union,
AFL-CIO (“USW” or the “Union”)
(collectively, the “Plaintiffs”), on behalf of a
class of retired employees of the Ampco-Pittsburgh
Corporation and Akers National Roll Company (collectively,
the “Company”), and the Akers National Roll
Company Health & Welfare Benefits Plan (together with the
Company, “Defendants”), alleging that the Company
impermissibly eliminated health plan coverage for
pre-Medicare eligible retirees who retired prior to March 1,
2015, and their spouses and covered dependents, when the
Company announced that members of that class of retired
employees would no longer be covered under the Company health
plan, but would instead be given a limited monthly
reimbursement for health insurance to be purchased on the
private market. Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 25.
Count I of the Amended Complaint, the Union alleges that the
Company's elimination of the retiree health benefits
violates the current collective bargaining agreement between
the Parties (the “2015 CBA”), and seeks an order
pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act
(“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185, to compel the
Company to arbitrate USW's grievance in accordance with
the 2015 CBA's grievance and arbitration provision.
Doc. No. 25, ¶ 57. Alternatively, Plaintiffs
brought Counts II and III alleging that the Company's
elimination of the retiree health benefits breaches the
Company's obligations under its collective bargaining
agreements in violation of the LMRA, and terminates retiree
healthcare benefits for the class of retired employees in
violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of
1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§
1132(a)(1)(B) and (a)(3).
motions are currently pending before the Court:
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint in
its entirety pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), doc. no.
36, and Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Arbitration,
doc. no. 40. The Court has reviewed the Parties'
thorough briefing of these motions. Doc. Nos. 37, 41, 43, 45,
46, and 47. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT
Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Arbitration and dismiss
Counts II and III of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint
without prejudice, doc. no. 40, and DENY AS MOOT
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, doc. no.
Standard of Review
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit directs
that there is a “strong federal policy in favor of
resolving labor disputes through arbitration[, ]” and
that the legal principles used to evaluate the construction
and enforcement of arbitration agreements must be applied
with that policy in mind. Rite Aid of Pennsylvania, Inc.
v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1776,
595 F.3d 128, 131 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court of Appeals
distinguishes between “narrow” arbitration
clauses and “broad” ones - - finding that broad
arbitration clauses “give rise to a presumption of
arbitrability which may be rebutted only by ‘the most
forceful evidence of a purpose to exclude the claim from
arbitration.'” Rite Aid, 595 F.3d at 131
(quoting AT&T Technologies, Inc. v. Communication
Workers of America, 475 U.S. 643, 650 (1986).
seeking to avoid arbitration, therefore, must either
“(1) establish the existence of an express provision
excluding the grievance from arbitration; or (2) provide the
most forceful evidence of a purpose to exclude the claim from
arbitration.” Lukens Steel Co. v. United
Steelworkers of America, 989 F.2d 668, 673 (3d Cir.
1993). “Federal courts liberally construe arbitration
clauses―so much so that ‘any doubts as to whether
an arbitration clause may be interpreted to cover the
asserted dispute should be resolved in favor of
arbitration.'” DCK North America, LLC v. Burns
and Roe Services Corp., 218 F.Supp.3d 465 (W.D. Pa.
2016) (quoting Becker Autoradio U.S.A., Inc. v. Becker
Autoradiowerk GmbH, 585 F.2d 39, 44 (3d Cir. 1978).
United States Supreme Court has held that a motion to compel
arbitration “should not be denied unless it may be said
with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not
susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted
dispute.” AT&T Technologies, 475 U.S. at
650. See also Century Indem. Co. v. Certain Underwriters
at Lloyd's, London, 584 F.3d 513, 524 (3d Cir.
2009). However, traditional principles of contract law still
apply even where the arbitration clause at issue is broad,
and a court cannot order arbitration of matters outside the
scope of the arbitration clause. United Steelworkers of
America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Rohm & Haas Co., 522 F.3d
324, 332 (3d Cir. 2008).
Parties' 2015 CBA contains an arbitration provision that
applies to disputes “between the Company and the Union
or its members as to interpretation or application of, or
compliance with the provisions of this Agreement[.]”
Doc. No. 45, pp. 10-11; Doc. No. 25-1, p.
3. Section 19 of the 2015 CBA provides that “[t]he
employees covered by this Agreement are also covered by the
following Plans: Medical Insurance[, ] Life Insurance[, ]
Pension[, ] Accident and Sickness Benefits[, ] FMLA Policy[,
and] 401-K Plan[.]” Doc. No. 25-1, p. 6.
Court finds that the 2015 CBA contains a broad arbitration
provision that does not expressly narrow or limit the types
of disputes that the Parties intend to resolve through their
agreed-upon arbitration procedures. Accordingly, the
presumption of arbitrability applies, and it falls to the
Company to set forth “positive assurance that the
arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation
that covers the asserted dispute.” AT&T
Technologies, 475 U.S. at 650. Here, although this is a
close case, the Company has not established the
“positive assurance” sufficient to show the Court
that this dispute should not fall under the arbitration
provision in the 2015 CBA.
Company correctly argues that the crux of Plaintiffs'
claim hinges on terms contained in a 2015 Memorandum of
Agreement by the Parties during the collective bargaining
process that ultimately resulted in the 2015 CBA. See
Doc. No. 46. However, it follows that whether and to
what extent the terms of the 2015 Memorandum of Agreement
confer medical insurance benefits to the class of retired
employees is a dispute that falls under the broad provision
covering the “interpretation or application of, or
compliance with the provisions of [the 2015 CBA]” - -
which expressly includes “Medical Insurance” as
an included “Other Plan”. Doc. No. 25-1,
Court finds this case distinguishable from those relied upon
by the Company in support of its argument: Rohm &
Haas Co., 522 F.3d 324, and Cardionet, Inc. v. Cigna
Health Corp., 751 F.3d 165 (3d Cir. 2014). In Rohm
& Haas, although the Court of Appeals found that the
arbitration provision was “broad” as it covered
“wages, hours, and working conditions of the . . .
employees” and “[s]uch questions arising under
this Agreement as involve wages (other than general
adjustments), individual base rates, hours of employment and
working conditions which any employee may desire to discuss
with the Company[, ]” the Court of Appeals also found
that the dispute at issue - - the extent of disability
benefits available to the Plaintiffs - - was not ...