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Kern v. Goebel Fixture Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 28, 2014

Donald Kern; William Grimm, as Trustees of the Plasterers & Cabinet Makers Health Fund, Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Goebel Fixture Co., Defendant - Appellee

Submitted June 10, 2014

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis.

For Donald Kern, William Grimm, as Trustees of the Plasterers & Cabinet Makers Health Fund, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Corey J. Ayling, Amy Lu Court, Carl S. Wosmek, Mcgrann & Shea, Minneapolis, MN.

For Goebel Fixture Co., Defendant - Appellee: Noah G. Lipschultz, Marko Joseph Mrkonich, Littler & Mendelson, Minneapolis, MN.

Before LOKEN, BEAM, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 872

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

Two trustees of the Plasterers and Cabinet Makers Health Fund (the " Fund" ) brought this action asserting claims under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (" LMRA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), and § 515 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (" ERISA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 1145, to collect unpaid benefit contributions allegedly owed by Goebel Fixture Co. (" Goebel" ). The district court[1] granted summary

Page 873

judgment on all claims because the governing Trust Agreement unambiguously required contributions only for employees " represented by the Union," and it was undisputed that the employees in question were not " represented by the Union." The Trustees appeal dismissal of their ERISA claim. Reviewing the grant of summary judgment de novo, we agree with the district court that the Trustees' contractual claim fails on the merits and therefore affirm.

I.

The Fund is a multi-employer health and welfare plan created and regulated under the LMRA and ERISA. The Fund is governed by The Second Restated Agreement and Declaration of Trust (" Trust Agreement" ) between the Minnesota Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association and five local unions, including Local 1865 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (the " Union" ). Article IV, Section 4.1, provides that each Employer " shall make prompt contributions or payments to the Trust Fund . . . in the amount and according to the terms provided in the applicable [CBA] between the Employer . . . and the Union," and that " [e]ach Employer shall be responsible only for the contributions payable by him/her on account of Employees covered by him/her." Article I, Section 1.1(a), defines the term " Employer" to mean a member of the Contractors Association " who is bound by a collective bargaining agreement [CBA] with the Union which . . . provides for the making of payments to the Trust Fund with respect to employees represented by the Union." Article I, Section 1.4(a), defines " Employee" to mean an employee " represented by the Union and working for an Employer . . . with respect to whose employment an Employer is required to make contributions into the Trust Fund."

For many years, Goebel has manufactured retail fixtures and cabinetry at a facility in Hutchinson, Minnesota. Employees working certain jobs at that facility have been represented by the Union or its predecessors. The current CBA between Goebel and the Union was signed on July 14, 2010, and binds the parties from February 1, 2010, until May 31, 2015. Article I, Section 1, provides that " all employees of the Employer under this Agreement" in enumerated job classifications shall be members of the Union. Article 20, Section 1, provides that Goebel shall " provide group health insurance benefits for each eligible regular full-time employee and his or her dependents . . . . through the Plasterers and Cabinet Makers Insurance Trust in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement and Declaration of Trust and Plan Document of that Trust." Article 20, Section 2, provides that Goebel shall remit monthly premiums to the Fund " [f]or each employee covered by the Agreement" who has completed an employment probationary period. It is undisputed that Goebel is responsible for and has made contributions to the Fund on behalf of its Hutchinson employees who are members of the Union.

On March 1, 2010, while the CBA was being negotiated, Goebel acquired another production facility in Minnetonka, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis some fifty miles from the Hutchinson facility. The Union has never represented employees of the Minnetonka facility who have similar job duties to Hutchinson employees who are members of the Union. During the negotiations, Goebel advised Plaintiff Trustee Donald Kern, acting in his capacity as Union business agent, that Goebel planned to operate a nonunion shop in ...


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