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Independent Construction Equipment Builders Union v. Hyster-Yale Materials Handling

May 16, 1996

INDEPENDENT CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT BUILDERS UNION (ICEBU), ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

HYSTER-YALE MATERIALS HANDLING, INCORPORATED, A CORPORATION, AND HYSTER COMPANY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Rock Island Division. No. 92 C 4066 Michael M. Mihm, Chief Judge.

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, and DIANE P. WOOD, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

EVANS, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED FEBRUARY 9, 1996

DECIDED MAY 16, 1996

At first glance, this case is about a half a buck. But to paraphrase the namesake of the building where this court sits, "Fifty cents here, fifty cents there -- pretty soon you're talking about real money." *fn1

In November 1988, the Independent Construction Equipment Builders Union (ICEBU) and the Hyster Company (along with Hyster-Yale Materials Handling, Inc., which we'll refer to jointly as Hyster), entered into an agreement ending a labor dispute at Hyster's manufacturing plant in Kewanee, Illinois. This case, brought by the Union and 206 of its members as named plaintiffs, arises from a dispute regarding pension plan language contained in that agreement. The Union appeals from a summary judgment entered on counts II and III of its complaint *fn2 in favor of Hyster. Count II is a claim for breach of a collective bargaining agreement under 29 U.S.C. sec. 185(a), sec. 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. Count III is a claim, as beneficiaries of a Hyster pension plan, for enforcement of rights to additional benefits under 29 U.S.C. sec. 1132, sec. 502 of ERISA. Both counts seek an increase in monthly pension benefits for employees of Hyster retiring after January 1, 1991.

Hyster's hourly employees at its Kewanee shop were covered under a pension plan with retirement benefits. Under the plan, members meeting the plan's eligibility requirements may elect to retire and receive normal retirement benefits when they reach age 65 and early retirement benefits when they become 55. The plan calculates monthly retirement benefits by multiplying a monthly rate times the total years of service to Hyster.

On November 11, 1988, Hyster and the ICEBU, the exclusive bargaining representative of hourly employees at the Kewanee shop, entered into an agreement settling a labor dispute between the parties. The pension provision of the agreement said:

Pension: increased $1.00 per month per year of service effective 1/1/89 for employees retiring after 1/1/89.

Plus $.50 increase per year of service effective 10/1/89 for employees retiring after 1/1/90. Plus $.50 increase per year of service effective 10/1/90 for employees retiring after 1/1/91.

Following execution of the settlement agreement, Hyster formally amended its pension plan, effective January 1, 1989, in accordance with the agreement's pension provision. Hyster's pension plan, as amended, provided:

Upon retirement at normal retirement date, each retired member shall receive a monthly retirement benefit as follows:

1. For members retiring on or after January 1, 1989, $17.00 per month for each year of membership service.

2. For members retiring on or after January 1, 1990, $17.50 per month for each year ...


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