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United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied v. Cookson America

February 25, 2012

UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, CLC, PLAINTIFF
v.
COOKSON AMERICA, INC., AND VESUVIUS USA CORP., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO, CLC ("USW"), brings this action under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C § 185, alleging that Defendants, Cookson America Inc. and its indirectly wholly owned subsidiary, Vesuvius USA Corp. ("Vesuvius"), breached their collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). Presently before this Court are each party's dueling motions for summary judgment. (Docket Nos. 25, 26.) For the following reasons, the USW's motion is granted and Defendants' motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts*fn1

The facts of this case are relatively undisputed. Vesuvius operated a steel plant and foundry in Hamburg, New York until it closed in 2008. (Plaintiff's Statement of Facts ("Pl.'s Stmnt."), ¶ 4; Docket No. 25-1.) The USW is a labor organization who represented the employees at the Vesuvius plant. (Id., ¶ 3.) As part of an agreement reached in 1994 between Vesuvius and its employees, employees who (1) were hired before March 15, 1994; (2) retired; and (3) reached the age of 65, would be entitled to a one-time medical benefit of $7,000, called the Retiree Medical Allowance. (Id., ¶ 13; 1994 CBA, Article 16, § 8, p. 27; Docket No. 25-3.) This benefit was carried over to the 1998-2001 and the 2004-2007 CBAs, with the amount increasing from $7,000 to $8,000. (Pl.'s Stmnt., ¶¶ 14, 15.)

In August of 2007, as the 2004-2007 bargaining agreement was set to expire, Vesuvius announced that it would be closing the Hamburg facility in approximately one year. (Id., ¶ 16.) Consequently, the parties negotiated a "Facility Closure and Collective Bargaining Agreement Termination" ("Closure Agreement"). (Id., ¶ 19.) This agreement, inter alia, provided that (1) the 2004-2007 CBA would remain in effect until the plant closed and (2) "[Vesuvius] shall honor the Retiree Medical Allowance provision of the CBA." (Closure Agreement, ¶¶ 1, 4; Docket No. 25-4.)

According to plan, the plant shut down in August of 2008. (Pl.'s Stmnt., ¶ 24.)

Between that time and December 31, 2010, approximately six retirees, hired before March 15, 1994, attained the age of 65 and were paid the $8,000 benefit by Vesuvius. (Id., ¶ 28.) However, effective January 1, 2011, Vesuvius notified USW that it would cease making these payments in the future.*fn2 (Id., ¶ 26.)

This litigation followed.

B. Procedural History

USW filed a complaint in this Court on January 19, 2010. (Docket No. 1.) On February 24, 2010, Defendants filed an answer. (Docket No. 4.) Two weeks later on March 12, 2010, Defendants filed an amended answer. (Docket No. 7.) With leave, on June 16, 2010, USW filed an amended complaint, which Defendants answered on July 2, 2010. (Docket Nos. 19, 21.) Each party moved for summary judgment on March 10, 2011 (Docket Nos. 25, 26) and, after full briefing, this Court took the motions under advisement without oral argument.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment ...


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