The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAMS
Plaintiffs Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, and Howard McDougall move the court to enter summary judgment on their behalf. Defendant Old Dutch Foods, Inc. moves the court to enter summary judgment on its behalf, under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For reasons set forth below, the court denies both motions.
Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund ("Pension Fund" or "Central States") brought this action under §§ 502(e)(1) and 515 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C § 1132; 29 U.S.C. § 1145, against Old Dutch Foods, Inc. ("Old Dutch"). The Pension Fund claims that Old Dutch has not met its obligation to contribute to the pension fund on behalf of certain Old Dutch employees. Old Dutch's obligation to contribute to the fund is defined by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement ("Agreement") negotiated between Old Dutch and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 471.
Old Dutch, with headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, produces and distributes snack food products to grocery stores and others. The route driver salespersons who work in respective territories in the State of Minnesota are represented by the Local 471 chapter of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Their employment relationship with Old Dutch is governed by a collective bargaining agreement that has been in effect since at least 1984. The Agreement describes the covered unit of employees as follows:
The employer recognizes Local 471 as the sole collective bargaining agent for the classification covered by this agreement within the territory now serviced by the employees of the company who are now within the bargaining unit as defined by the letter of January 14, 1969 to the union over the signature of E.C. Aanenson, Vice President of the employer.
The reference to a 1969 letter deals with a clarification of the bargaining unit stemming from changes made in the employer's operation in 1968. In 1968, Old Dutch moved its plant from downtown Minneapolis to Roseville, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. As a result of this move, the company was transferred from the jurisdiction of one Teamster local union to a different Teamster local union. Therefore, certain route drivers who had been members of the union were working outside of the defined geographical area covered by the bargaining unit. (Stip. P 10.) To clarify who was still eligible for continued pension coverage notwithstanding the change, the employer wrote the 1969 letter referenced above stating:
1. All city routes in the Twin City areas are clearly covered.
2. Feeder line routes now operated by McFarlane in Rochester, Uppman in Worthington, Carlson in Faribault, Westerman in New Prague, Krueger in Mankato, and Korpi in Rush City are covered.
After the execution of this letter, Old Dutch continued to make contributions to the individuals specified in section 2 of the 1969 letter. However, as certain of those individuals left the company, they were replaced by others -- some of whom Old Dutch started and has continued to make contributions to the fund and others for whom Old Dutch has not made contributions. Therein is the essential dispute of the parties. Old Dutch contends that the intent of the foregoing letter was to apply the collective bargaining unit to named individuals while the Pension Fund contends that the intent was to apply the collective bargaining agreement to designated routes.
In 1987, Central States audited Old Dutch for the period of 1984 to 1986 and decided that contributions were not due on 90 previously non-reported drivers. In 1993, Central States audited Old Dutch for the period of 1990 to 1992. During this audit the 1969 letter was reviewed. Based on this letter Central States claims that it has not received contribution to the fund for 14 drivers. These 14 drivers are responsible for routes designated in the 1969 letter.
In April, 1994 Old Dutch petitioned the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"), under Section 9(c) of the National Labor Relations Act, for a clarification of its bargaining unit. On May 20, 1994 the Regional Director of the NLRB issued a decision and order with respect to the petition. He stated: "in view of the historical exclusion of the route driver sales employees in Rochester, New Prague, Mankato and Route 142 in ...