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RCA Corp. v. Local 241

March 1, 1983

RCA CORPORATION
v.
LOCAL 241, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL ENGINEERS, AFL-CIO, RCA CORPORATION, APPELLANT IN NO. 82-5090, LOCAL 241, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL ENGINEERS, AFL-CIO, APPELLANTS IN NOS. 82-5222, 82-5266 AND 82-5317



Appeal from the Final Judgment and Order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey Partially Granting and Partially Denying Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment.

Gibbons, Higginbotham and Becker, Circuit Judges.

Author: Higginbotham

Opinion OF THE COURT

A. LEON HIGGINBOTHAM, JR., Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises from a final judgment and order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. In the action below RCA Corporation ("RCA") sought a declaratory judgment that two unilateral decisions of the RCA Retirement Benefits Committee regarding RCA's Retirement Plan should not be subject to the arbitration provisions of its collective bargaining agreement or any other agreement between RCA and Local 241, International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers ("Local 241"). RCA and Local 241 each filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.

The district court granted and denied both motions in part. The district court concluded that the disputes were arbitrable to the extent that the claims involved alleged violations of the General Collective Bargaining Agreement and Supplementary Agreements thereto which expressly provided for arbitration. The district court held that the claims were non-arbitrable to the extent that they involved violations of the Retirement Plan alone and on the merits of that issue granted summary judgment to RCA. In short, the court below found that the General Collective Bargaining Agreement and Supplementary Agreement, not the Retirement Plan, contemplated arbitration.

On January 12, 1982, RCA filed a timely Notice of Appeal limited to that portion of the district court's order requiring arbitration. The appeal was docketed in this Court as No. 82-5090. On January 20, 1982, RCA sent a letter to Local 241 notifying Local 241 that RCA had ordered a copy of the district court transcript for use in its appeal. Local 241 acknowledged RCA's letter on January 25, 1982. On February 16, 1982, three weeks after the 14-day deadline within which a notice of appeal must be filed as prescribed by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(3), Local 241 motioned the district court for an extension of time in which to file a notice of cross-appeal from the district court's order relating to the non-arbitrability of the Retirement Plan.

Because of a misrepresentation by Local 241 alleging that it had not received notice of RCA's appeal until after the 14-day period had elapsed, and because of a mix-up in the Office of the Clerk of the District Court resulting in the non-delivery of RCA's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Local 241's Motion, Local 241's motion was granted. Pursuant to this extension Local 241 filed a Notice of Appeal on March 16, 1982, which this Court designated as No. 82-5222.

On March 19, 1982, immediately after it learned of the extension granted to Local 241, RCA moved the district court to reconsider and vacate the March 8 order granting Local 241 an extension of time in which to file a notice of appeal.

Resting its decision on the unrebutted evidence that Local 241 was notified of RCA's notice of appeal prior to the January 26, 1982 deadline, the district court, in a Letter Opinion dated April 19, 1982, vacated its March 8 order granting Local 241 an extension. Additionally, the district court issued an order on May 3, 1982, giving effect to the April 19, 1982 Letter Opinion.

Local 241 appealed the May 3, 1982 order. That appeal was docketed in this Court as No. 82-5317, and on May 4, 1982, Local 241 filed another appeal, No. 82-5266, from the April 19, 1982 Letter Opinion.

We will affirm the district court's vacation of its March 8 order granting Local 241 an extension of time in which to file a Notice of Appeal and therefore we will dismiss Local 241's appeals, docketed in this Court as No. 82-5222, No. 82-5317 and No. 82-5266.

We will affirm also the district court's decision, in 82-5090, requiring RCA to arbitrate the unilateral actions of its Retirement Benefits Committee because Local 241 alleged that these unilateral actions violate Section 3.01 and 3.02 of the General Agreement and 57.03 of the Supplementary Agreement.

I. FACTS

The parties agree to the essential facts underlying this appeal. RCA and Local 241 are parties to a General Collective Bargaining Agreement, two Supplementary Agreements and a Retirement Plan. (App. 13a-129a). The General Collective Bargaining Agreement, expressly, and the Supplementary Agreement, by reference, provide for the arbitration of grievances arising under those agreements. The Retirement Plan, however, contains no provision for arbitration of grievances or disputes arising under that plan.

The disputes which Local 241 seeks to arbitrate involve two unilateral changes in the Retirement Plan. The first dispute stems from the fact that the Retirement Benefits Committee*fn1 unilaterally increased the interest rate assumption used in calculating the actuarial lump sum equivalences to extended monthly benefits paid under the Retirement Plan. By raising the interest rate "assumed" over the next X years, the present value and therefore dollar amount of lump-sum benefits paid today is decreased.

The second dispute concerns the "buy-back" interest rate applied to withdrawn contributions of previously terminated employees. RCA permits laid off or terminated employees to "buy-back" their pension credit if upon departing from RCA they had withdrawn their contributions. The buy-back price equals the withdrawn contributions compounded annually at a specified interest rate. Terminated employees who return as so-called new employees are charged five (5) percent while laid off employees are charged six (6) percent when recalled.

RCA has refused to recognize the arbitrability of Local 241's challenge to these unilateral actions of the ...


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