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Collective Bargaining Agreement


Collective Bargaining Agreement


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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Bulk Transport, Corp. v. Teamsters Union Local 142

Case No.: 23-1563

Officials: Flaum, Easterbrook, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Collective Bargaining Agreement

The dispute stemmed from two collective bargaining agreements between Bulk Transport Corp. and Teamsters Local 142, which were effective from 2003 to 2006. The crux of the matter revolved around the application of the Steel Mill Addendum, a provision within one of the agreements, to non-steel mill work (referred to as LISCO work). Bulk Transport initially adhered to the Union’s insistence on applying this Addendum to LISCO work, thereby making pension contributions on behalf of the LISCO workers. However, upon losing the LISCO contract, Bulk Transport ceased these contributions, prompting the Pension Fund to assess a withdrawal liability of approximately $2 million under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act (MPPAA).

Following arbitration, Bulk Transport complied with the payment but sought a review of the decision. The district court sided with the arbitrator’s determination that Bulk Transport had effectively adopted the Addendum through its conduct, thereby entitling the Pension Fund to the withdrawal liability. Furthermore, the district court rejected Bulk Transport’s plea for a refund.

In a reversal of the district court’s ruling, the Seventh Circuit asserted that the terms of pension contributions to multi-employer plans should be dictated by the written agreement rather than by practice or conduct. Since the written agreement did not encompass the LISCO work, the court dismissed the argument that Bulk Transport’s conduct had modified the agreement’s substantive terms. It emphasized that the written documents were decisive, precluding employers and unions from deviating from the requirements orally or through their actions. While affirming the district court’s denial of attorney’s fees for the Pension Fund, the Seventh Circuit remanded the case with instructions to compel the Pension Fund to reimburse the withdrawal liability collected from Bulk Transport.

Reversed in part and affirmed in part, remanded

Decided 03/22/24

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