United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, LOCAL 139, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
WINGRA STONE COMPANY, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge.
action, plaintiff International Union of Operating Engineers,
Local 319, AFL-CIO (“Local 139”) seeks an order
confirming the decision, award and supplemental award of an
arbitrator regarding a health care coverage dispute with
defendant Wingra Stone Company. Wingra seeks an order
vacating the same decision and awards. Before the court are
the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. (Dkt.
##14, 18.) For the reasons that follow, the court will grant
Local 139's motion and deny Wingra's motion.
Accordingly, the arbitration award is confirmed.
The Parties and Principal Actors
139 is a labor organization that represents heavy equipment
operators and other employees throughout Wisconsin for the
purpose of collective bargaining. Local 139 maintains an
office within this district, in Madison, Wisconsin. Ryan
Oehlhof is an officer and business representative of Local
139, who has worked with employees of Wingra since 2004. He
is involved in handling disputes between Local 139 and
employers such as Wingra.
Stone Company is an employer based in southern Wisconsin,
primarily engaged in the business of road construction, as
well as processing and supplying aggregate material,
including operating various quarries. Wingra does business in
Wisconsin. It also maintains an office in Madison, Wisconsin.
Robert Shea is an officer and employee of Wingra. He has been
actively involved in negotiations with Local 139 from the
late 1990s through the present.
Collective Bargaining Agreements
parties have had a bargaining relationship for the past 40
years. Beginning in 2004, they have been bound by a series of
collective bargaining agreements covering Wingra's quarry
operations. The first agreement governed the parties'
relationship for five years (“the 2004
Agreement”). In 2009, the parties entered into a Letter
of Understanding extending the 2004 Agreement through April
30, 2010. The parties entered into a new agreement effective
May 1, 2010, through April 30, 2012 (“the 2010
Agreement”). Local 139 and Wingra were subject to the
2010 Agreement at the time Local 139 filed the grievance at
2012, the parties entered into yet another Letter of
Understanding extending the 2010 Agreement through April 30,
2014. At the time the parties filed their respective motions
for summary judgment, they were still in the process of
negotiating a successor to this extended 2010
the collective bargaining agreements between the parties
contain the same language regarding health insurance:
Employer agrees to maintain for all bargaining unit employees
who have been employed for more than thirty (30) days a group
health and hospitalization insurance plan that will contain
coverage equal to or better than the plan provided by the
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 Health
Benefit Fund for the Term of the Agreement and pay the full
(See, e.g., Joint Stip., Ex. B-5 (2010 Agreement)
(dkt. #17-6) Art. XV.)
Local 139 Health Benefit Fund referenced in the language
above (“Local 139 Plan”) is self-funded and
provides health benefits to approximately 8, 600
participants. The Local 139 Plan was established in a Trust
Agreement negotiated by Local 139 and various employer
associations. The Local 139 Plan sets out the benefits it
provides to participants in its Summary Plan Description
(“SPD”), the most recent of which was effective
all of the parties' collective bargaining agreements also
contain the following provision:
No grievance will be acted upon by either party unless such
grievance is filed in writing with the Employer within thirty
(30) day period after the alleged violation. Grievances
should be null and void if filed after such period.
(Joint Stip., Exs. B-2, B.5 (dkt. ##3, 6) Art. IV § 2.)
2011 Change to Wingra's Health Insurance Plan
employees covered by the series of collective bargaining
agreements with Local 139 receive coverage under the Wingra
Stone Company Employee Health, Dental and Vision Plan (the
“Wingra Plan”), rather than the Local 139 Plan.
Since at least 2004, however, Local 139 did not believe that
the Wingra Plan was “equal to or better than” the
Local 139 Plan. During negotiations of the 2009 Letter of
Understanding, Local 139 took the position that the Wingra
Plan was not equal to or better than the Local 139 Plan,
specifically identifying two areas that Local 139 did not
view as comparable: (1) Health Reimbursement Account
(“HRA”) pre-funding of retiree benefits, and (2)
so-called “loss-of-time benefits.” At one point,
Local 139 agent Oehlhof stated, “The last contract
compared health & now our Insurance [under the Local 139
Plan] has surpassed your coverage.” (Joint Stip., Ex.
24 (dkt. #17-25) 8.)
this concern, Local 139's membership approved the 2009
decision to extend the 2004 contract one more year. Local 139
did not file a grievance on coverage at that time, nor during
negotiations of the 2010 Agreement, challenging the Wingra
Plan as not being “equal to or better than” the
Local 139 Plan.
January 2011, Wingra notified its employees of changes to its
Plan, including a change to spousal coverage. Specifically,
the Plan would no longer provide secondary coverage to
spouses eligible for health coverage through the spouse's
own employer. After learning of the change to spousal
coverage, a Local 139 agent spoke to one of Wingra's
owners about how the change was not “equal to or better
than” the benefits provided by ...