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International Union, United Automobile v. Zf Boge Elastmetall LLC

August 19, 2011

INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE & AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA, AND ITS LOCAL 2343, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
ZF BOGE ELASTMETALL LLC, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 2:08-cv-02260-MPM-DGB-Michael P. McCuskey, Chief Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED DECEMBER 7, 2010

Before RIPPLE, KANNE and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America ("UAW") and its Local 2343 (collec-tively, the "Union") brought this action against ZF Boge Elastmetall LLC ("ZF Boge") in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. The Union claimed that ZF Boge breached the operative collective bargaining agreement ("Agreement" or "CBA") by closing a manufacturing plant in Paris, Illinois, after it had secured various concessions from the Union, which represented the employees at the Paris facility. Proceeding under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, the Union requested both damages and specific performance of a provision in a labor agreement that, it contends, required ZF Boge to maintain the operation of the Paris facility following a consolidation of operations with a facility in Hebron, Kentucky. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the district court entered judgment for ZF Boge. The Union now appeals.

We agree with the district court that the concessions did not require the Paris facility to be kept open beyond the expiration of the CBA.*fn1 Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I

BACKGROUND

A. Facts

At the times relevant to this action, ZF Boge operated two manufacturing facilities in the United States that produced rubber and metal brushings for use in the automotive industry. The facility in Paris, Illinois, was unionized and operated under the terms of successive collective bargaining agreements. The relevant agreement covered the period of April 3, 2005, through April 6, 2008. The facility in Hebron, Kentucky, was nonunion at all relevant periods.

In early 2007, in the face of "significant operating losses," R.43 (R.37, Vol. V), Ex. KK, ZF Boge began studying consolidation of its manufacturing operations. Beginning in April 2007, ZF Boge approached the Union representing the Paris employees and requested to reopen several provisions of the CBA that it deemed "non[-]competitive." Id., Ex. QQ. The Union's membership initially rejected the request to bargain about items included in the governing CBA, including pensions, shifts, job selection and payroll administration. Plant Manager Marc Vonderlage subsequently asked the membership to reconsider by explaining in a memo to employees that the purpose of renegotiation was "to position this plant so that it has the best chance of being chosen to remain open and viable in the long term." R.1, Ex. B. Union members were reassured that, before any agreement was reached, it would be presented for approval to the membership and that "none of the changes agreed to will take effect unless this plant is chosen to stay open." Id. A week after Vonderlage's memo was sent, the members voted to begin bargaining on the contested items.

The Union and ZF Boge reached an agreement, signed on June 25, 2007, with respect to the terms that had been reopened for negotiation. The 2007 Agreement (or the "mid-term Agreement") was titled, "Agreements: ZF Boge Elastmetall/UAW 2343 regarding items discussed to influence the plant selection decision and long term viability of the Paris facility." R.1, Ex. A at 1. It is written in chart form, placing the previously negotiated provision of the still-in-effect 2005 CBA next to the newly negotiated terms, topic-by-topic. In addition to the concessions requested by ZF Boge, such as a pension freeze and biweekly payroll, the Union negotiated more generous 401(k) provisions, including a defined contribution of three percent for all employees and additional matching contributions, as well as the addition of five employees to the bargaining unit. Although the mid-term Agreement contained no introductory materials or comprehensive statements, the final page included a section titled, "Notes regarding these agreements," which provided, in relevant part:

None of these items will be implemented unless Paris is the plant chosen to remain in operation after the consolidation. If Paris is NOT the chosen facility, it will continue to operate under the old UAW contract.

Id. at 8. After setting implementation times for the various provisions, some of which depended on the date of "an official announcement regarding the consolidation plan," the mid-term Agreement concluded with the note:

It is mutually agreed between the company and union bargaining teams that the items revised through this process will not be subject to ...


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