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Bartman v. Allis-Chalmers Corp.

decided: August 20, 1986.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, No. 83 C 435--Terence T. Evans, Judge.

Author: Bauer

Before BAUER, FLAUM and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges.

BAUER, Circuit Judge.

Appellants are sixty-five former employees of Allis-Chalmers Corporation. In 1983 they filed this law suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. ยง 623 et seq., seeking damages and reinstatement and naming Allis-Chalmers ("A-C") and their union, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America and its Local No. 248 ("the Union") as defendants. The district court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment, and this appeal followed. We affirm.


Summary judgment is properly granted only if it appears "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(c), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In determining whether any issues of material fact are in dispute, the inferences drawn from the record must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rodeo v. Gillman, 787 F.2d 1175 (7th Cir. 1986); Janowiak v. City of South Bend, 750 F.2d 557, 559 (7th Cir. 1984). We have frequently noted that summary judgment may be inappropriate where motive or intent are at issue, as is often true in discrimination cases. See, e.g., Stumph v. Thomas & Skinner, Inc., 770 F.2d 93, 97 (7th Cir. 1985).

In reviewing a summary judgment this court must view the whole record, and must reverse if it is revealed that inferences concerning material facts contrary to those of the trial court may be drawn. Powers v. Dole, 782 F.2d 689, 694 (7th Cir. 1986). We are not, however, required to draw every conceivable inference, but only those that are reasonable. Matthews v. Allis-Chalmers Corp., 769 F.2d 1215, 1218 (7th Cir. 1985); Parker v. Federal National Mortgage Association, 741 F.2d 975, 980 (7th Cir. 1984).

Viewed in accordance with these principles, the record discloses the following undisputed facts: A-C is a manufacturer of farm implements headquartered in the Milwaukee area. In late 1981 and 1982, during a period of substantial financial losses, A-C informed the Union that it wanted to open negotiations to seek concessions in the collective bargaining agreement then in force, which was scheduled to expire on November 1, 1982. A-C planned to ask for concessions on wages and benefits, and this desire was communicated to Union officials and to the employee population as a whole.

Negotiations actually began in October of 1981 and continued intermittently until July 31, 1982, when they were temporarily suspended due to lack of progress. As the expiration date of the old contract neared certain A-C employees became concerned about the status of their retirement benefits under the company's Pension Plan, an agreement separate from the contract but set to expire on the same day. Among these employees were plaintiffs, who at the time were eligible to retire immediately under the "early retirement" provisions of the Pension Plan. The Plan made early retirement available to those with 30 or more years of service at A-C. Plaintiffs were not worried about the sufficiency of benefits under whatever new contract would be negotiated; rather, their concern centered on any "window" period between the expiration of the old contract and Pension Plan and ratification of the new ones.*fn1 A-C management, anticipating these concerns, had projected an increase in early retirements as the expiration date approached.

As the November 1 deadline neared it became clear that no new contract would be agreed upon before the old one expired. A-C and the Union, having resumed negotiations, first agreed to an extension of the old contract until November 15. When even this period proved insufficient, the company and the Union announced that work would be available for all employees at the old contract's wage scale. (A-C remained in operation under those conditions until a new contract was negotiated on January 24, 1983 and ratified on February 6.)

In the weeks before the expiration of the old contract, concern among retirement-eligible employees about the future of their pension benefits mounted. At least two persons in A-C management suggested issuance by the company of a statement that would include a promise to give employees advance warning of any benefit plan changes; this would have assured retirement-eligible employees of the opportunity to work as long as possible without actually risking their benefits, which is exactly what plaintiffs wanted to do. The Union also brought up the possibility of a statement in its negotiations with A-C in November of 1982. Ultimately A-C declined to issue such a statement.*fn2

A substantial number of eligible employees, including plaintiffs, retired just before the expiration of the old contract. However, A-C did allow those retiring during November of 1982 to rescind their retirements and return to work by November 30 without loss of seniority, and some did so. A total of 320 employees retired between October 31 and November 15, not including 61 who elected to rescind their retirements and go back to work before the end of November.

Negotiations continued after the old contract expired. Plaintiffs asked the Union to raise the subject of their retirements, which they had come to view as "forced," in those negotiations. The subject was raised at bargaining sessions in December, 1982 but A-C refused to give in on the issue. In January of 1983 the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board moved to add charges related to the retirements to unfair labor practice charges already pending against A-C concerning its conduct in bargaining in ...

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