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United Steelworkers of America v. New Jersey Zinc Co.

filed as amended october 6 1987.: September 14, 1987.

UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, APPELLANT
v.
NEW JERSEY ZINC COMPANY, INC. LICENSED TO BUSINESS IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE PENSION PLAN OF THE NEW JERSEY ZINC COMPANY



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Camden) (D.C. Civil No. 83-2278).

Sloviter, Becker and Garth, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter

Opinion OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Circuit Judge

I.

Introduction

The United Steelworkers of America (Steelworkers) filed this action seeking to force the New Jersey Zinc Company (NJ Zinc), to fully fund pension benefits as its predecessor had negotiated to do. Following a bench trial the district court entered judgment against Steelworkers, finding that NJ Zinc had never agreed to be bound by the full funding contract provision relied on by Steelworkers.

Two issues are presented by Steelworkers' appeal. First, has Steelworkers waived its right to contest a magistrate's ruling that it was not entitled to a jury trial because it failed to object to that ruling in the district court? Second, is the district court's finding that NJ Zinc never agreed to be bound by the full funding contract provision clearly erroneous?

II.

Facts

Prior to September 30, 1981, Gulf & Western Industries, Inc. (G&W), through one of its divisions, operated three facilities located in Palmerton, Pa., Depue, Ill., and Ogdensburg, N.J., (the three facilities) and seven facilities elsewhere. Steelworkers was the collective bargaining representative of workers at the three facilities and in that capacity had, along with four Locals, negotiated and signed a Basic Labor Agreement (the Labor Agreement) with G&W covering each of four bargaining units at the three facilities.

The Labor Agreement contained the following clause identifying other benefit agreements:

OTHER BENEFIT AGREEMENTS

The agreements of the parties with respect to Pensions, Insurance Program, Cost of Living Provisions, Supplemental Unemployment Benefits and Severance Pay are contained in separate agreements.

App. at 238. The Pension Agreement (the G&W Plan) applicable to the four units covered by the Labor Agreement was entered into by Steelworkers with G&W on behalf of eleven bargaining units at all ten G&W facilities. The G&W Plan applied to active employees, retirees, and former employees with vested benefits.

Two clauses of the G&W Plan are relevant. One, a termination clause, provided that the G&W Plan could "be terminated at any time by the Board of Directors." App. at 189. The other, a funding clause, required:

Upon termination of the Plan or upon termination of all of the Employer's operations, the Employer will fully fund on a sound actuarial basis all vested benefits currently payable or payable in the future under the eligibility ...


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