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Barton v. Constellium Rolled Products-Ravenswood, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

March 22, 2017

RONALD BARTON; NEIL KNOX; ELIJAH P. MORRIS; WAYNE MORRIS; JOHN TABOR, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL & SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION AFL-CIO/CLC, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
v.
CONSTELLIUM ROLLED PRODUCTS-RAVENSWOOD, LLC; CONSTELLIUM ROLLED PRODUCTS-RAVENSWOOD, LLC EMPLOYEES GROUP BENEFITS PLAN, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: January 24, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, at Charleston. Joseph R. Goodwin, District Judge. (2:13-cv-03127)

         ARGUED:

          Joseph P. Stuligross, UNITED STEEL WORKERS OF AMERICA, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Appellants.

          Christopher Alan Weals, MORGAN, LEWIS & BOCKIUS LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Pamina Ewing, McKean Evans, FEINSTEIN DOYLE PAYNE & KRAVEC, LLC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Appellants.

          Charles C. Jackson, Chicago, Illinois, Sean K. McMahan, Abbey M. Glenn, MORGAN, LEWIS & BOCKIUS LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

          Before MOTZ, DUNCAN, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.

          DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge:

         A class of retirees and their union filed this action after their former employer unilaterally altered its retiree health benefits program. Because the governing collective bargaining agreement does not provide for vested retiree health benefits, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer.

         I.

         A.

         Constellium Rolled Products-Ravenswood, LLC operates an aluminum plant in Ravenswood, West Virginia. The individual plaintiffs have retired from working in that plant. The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industry & Service Workers International Union AFL-CIO/CLC ("the Union") represented the retirees during their employment. As far back as 1988, the Union negotiated collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs") with Constellium (or its predecessors) on the employees' behalf.

         Each individual class member retired during the operation of one of seven CBAs between the Union and one of Constellium's predecessors. These included the 1988 CBA between the Union and Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation; the 1992 CBA between the Union and Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation of West Virginia, Inc.; the 1994 CBA between the Union and Ravenswood Aluminum; the 1999 CBA between the Union and Century Aluminum Corporation; the 2002 CBA between the Union and Pechiney Rolled Products; the 2005 CBA between the Union and Alcan Rolled Products- Ravenswood; and the 2010 CBA between the Union and Alcan. The 2010 CBA expired on July 15, 2012.

         Article 15 of each CBA, which appears in substantially the same form across all seven, contained a provision for group health insurance benefits. The 2010 provision reads as follows:

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 the 2005 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 July 15, 2010, except as otherwise provided in the applicable booklet, and further that such benefits shall remain in effect for the term of this 2010 Labor Agreement.

         The "booklet[]" to which Article 15 refers, entitled "Retired Employees' Group Insurance Program, " serves as the summary plan description ("SPD") of the group health insurance benefits program for retirees. The first edition of the SPD was issued in 1985, with subsequent editions issued in 1990, 1992, 1995, and 2005. The 2005 SPD provides that, with limited exceptions, "[t]he benefits described in this summary are effective as of June 1, 2005, " the date of the start of the 2005 CBA, and that these benefits last "for the term of ...


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