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Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC v. United Steel

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

December 4, 2018

CONSTELLIUM ROLLED PRODUCTS RAVENSWOOD, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO/CLC, et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending before the Court in this consolidated action is Defendant United Steel Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC's (“Union”) motion for a preliminary injunction pending arbitration. (ECF No. 12; 2:18-cv-1414, ECF No. 1.)[1] For the reasons discussed herein, the Court GRANTS the motion. (ECF No. 12; 2:18-cv-1414, ECF No. 1.)

         I.BACKGOUND

         This case arises out of Plaintiff Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC's (“Constellium”) unilateral decision to alter the benefits available to its Medicare-eligible retirees. (See ECF No. 12 at 4-5, ¶¶ 13-14.) The Union and Constellium have been parties to several collective bargaining agreements (“CBA”s) from 1999 to the present. (See 2:18-cv-1414, ECF No. 11 at 4.) The most recent CBA, and the one that is the subject of this action, was entered into by the parties on September 19, 2017 and is effective through September 19, 2022. (ECF No. 12 at 2, ¶ 5.)

         Article 10 of the CBA establishes a grievance procedure for disputes between the parties. (Id. ¶ 6.) It defines a grievance as, “any differences . . . between the Company and the Union as to the meaning or application of the provisions of this Agreement, or as to any question relating to the wages, hours of work, or other conditions of employment of any employee[.]” (ECF No. 12-1 at 11 (CBA).) The Article further establishes a four-step process for resolving grievances with the final step being arbitration. (See id.) In order to reach arbitration, the CBA provides that a representative from the International Union must appeal a Step 3 denial of a grievance within 30 days. (See Id. at 12.)

         Article 15 of the CBA, governs current and retired employees' health benefits and states the following:

A. Group Insurance
1. The group insurance benefits shall be set forth in booklets entitled Employees' Group Insurance Program and Retired Employees' Group Insurance Program, and such booklets are incorporated herein and made a part of this 2017 Labor Agreement by such reference.
2. It is understood that this Agreement with respect to insurance benefits is an agreement on the basis of benefits and that the benefits shall become effective on September 19, 2017, except as otherwise provided in the applicable booklet, and further that such benefits shall remain in effect for the term of this 2017 Labor Agreement.

(See Id. at 16.) This benefit language is virtually identical to the language in previous CBAs, with the only difference being the date of the identified CBA and the effective date. (See 2:18-cv-1414, ECF No. 5 at 3.) The parties also negotiated for and appended a “Cap Letter” to the CBA, which outlined the benefits for employees who retired on or after January 1, 2003. (See ECF No. 12-1 at 18.) The Cap Letter further states that these retirees are eligible for retiree medical coverage and establishes the average annual contributions that Constellium would pay for all healthcare benefits per each participating retiree who retired on or after January 1, 2003. (See id.) The Parties also memorialized benefits in a Retired Employees' Group Insurance Program Booklet that refers to the summary plan description (“SPD”) for retiree health benefits. (See 2:18-cv-1414, ECF No. 5 at 3 n.1.) However, the parties disagree as to whether this booklet refers to the 1995 SPD or 2005 SPD. (See id.) Nevertheless, both SPDs provide for group medical and drug coverage for retirees which are to remain in effect for the term of the CBA. (See id.; see also ECF No. 6 at 5.)

         On August 24, 2018, Constellium sent a letter to its Medicare-eligible retirees stating that, starting January 1, 2019, Constellium was terminating the employer provided group medical and drug coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees and, instead, these retirees could purchase supplemental Medicare insurance from Aon Retiree Health Exchange (“Aon”). (See ECF No. 12-5 at 1.) The letter also stated that Constellium was establishing Health Reimbursement Accounts (“HRA”s) into which Constellium would deposit $4, 500 per year for each retiree and his or her spouse. (See id.) These retirees are required to sign up for coverage with Aon by December 7, 2018 or forfeit the ability to utilize Aon or receive any deposit by Constellium into an HRA in the future. (See id.)

         On September 7, 2018, the Union filed a grievance pursuant to the grievance process outlined in Article 10 of the CBA. (See ECF No. 12-6.) This grievance stated that Constellium “made a unilateral change to the Contract Agreement dated September 19[, ] 2017 regarding the agreed to cap letters which is encompassed with this Contract of September 19[, ] 2017 . . . .” (Id.) The grievance further requested that Constellium cease and desist this unilateral change. (Id.) On October 2, 2018, Constellium denied the grievance stating that the change did not violate the CBA and that, to the extent that the change impacted retirees who retired under previous CBAs, the change was allowed under the Fourth Circuit's decision in Barton v. Constellium Rolled Prod.-Ravenswood, LLC, 856 F.3d 348 (4th Cir. 2017). (ECF No. 12-7.) On October 4, 2018, the Union demanded arbitration of the grievance. To date, no arbitration has occurred.

         On November 2, 2018, Constellium filed its action for declaratory judgment requesting a declaration from the Court regarding Constellium's ability to make unilateral changes to the health plan for the above group of retirees.[2] (ECF No. 1.) The Union subsequently filed its present action for a preliminary injunction on November 7, 2018, requesting that the Court issue a preliminary injunction to stop Constellium from implementing the above healthcare changes prior to an arbitration award. (2:18-cv-1414, ECF No. 1.) Constellium timely responded to the Union's motion. (See 2:18-cv-1414, ECF No. 11.) This Court held a Preliminary Injunction hearing on November 26, 2018. As such, the motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”) provides the following:

Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

29 U.S.C. 185(a). However, the Norris-LaGuardia Act (“NLA”) severely limits the Court's jurisdiction to issue any temporary restraining order or preliminary or permanent injunction in cases involving or growing out of labor disputes and provides the following:

No Court of the United States . . . shall have jurisdiction to enter any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction in a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute, except in strict conformity with the provisions of this Act; nor shall any such restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction be issued contrary to the public policy declared in this Act.

29 U.S.C. § 101. Section 7 of the NLA lists the procedural requirements for issuing a restraining order or injunction under the NLA.

         The Supreme Court in Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks Union, Local 770 carved out a limited exception to the prohibition in the NLA. See 398 U.S. 235 (1970). In that case, the Supreme Court held that, because of the importance of arbitration as an instrument for resolving labor disputes, the NLA should not be construed as prohibiting the issuance of injunctions to preserve the status quo in labor disputes pending arbitration where there is a binding grievance procedure and arbitration agreement. See Id. at 242. In Buffalo Forge Co. v. United Steelworkers, the Supreme Court made clear that the Court's decision in Boy's Market only dealt “with the situation in which the collective-bargaining contract contained mandatory grievance and arbitration procedures.” 428 U.S. 397, 406 (1976); see also Columbia Local, Am. Postal Workers Union v. Bolger, 621 F.2d 615, 617 (4th Cir. 1980) (“[Buffalo Forge] made clear that Boys Markets ‘authority to enjoin was limited to injunctions to enforce the union's promise to arbitrate.'”)

         Although the above cases involved injunctions to enjoin unions from striking in order to enforce the union's promise to arbitrate, these principles also apply to suits “by [a] union seeking to enjoin actions by employers over which the union has filed grievance under a mandatory arbitration procedure.” Bolger, 621 F.2d at 617; see also Lever Bros. Co. v. Int'l Chemical Workers Union, Local 217, 554 F.2d 115, 123 (4th Cir. 1976) (“Further, the rule contained in this case is obviously a two-sided coin. An injunction to ...


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