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PETE v. UMW WELFARE & RETIREMENT FUND OF 1950

January 9, 1973

Stephen Pete et al., Plaintiffs
v.
United Mine Workers Of America Welfare And Retirement Fund Of 1950 et al., Defendants


Jones, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JONES

Plaintiffs in this class action are retired miners who have been refused pension benefits by the defendant Trustees of the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund of 1950. Plaintiffs' applications for pension benefits were denied on the ground that their permanent retirement from the coal industry did not occur immediately "following regular employment . . . as an employee of an operator signatory to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1950, As Amended. . . ." *fn1"

 Plaintiffs' Statement of Material Facts as to Which There Is No Genuine Dispute, submitted in accord with Local Rule 9(h), does not go beyond the facts stated in the preceding paragraph. Defendants have not filed a counterstatement under Local Rule 9(h), nor have they in any other way contested the facts stated above. The Court finds therefore that there are no material facts genuinely in dispute and that summary judgment is appropriate at this juncture.

 The Court in Roark v. Lewis, supra note 2, and again in Roark v. Boyle, supra note 1, examined the Trustees' requirement of signatory employment and held that such a condition of eligibility,

 
". . . may have a legitimate purpose, and may be established as a valid eligibility requirement if coupled with one or more other requirements conditioning eligibility for a full pension on a significant history of contributory employment. Consequently, we do not lay down a rule forbidding every signatory last employment requirement." 439 F.2d at 500. *fn3"

 But the Court struck down the requirement of signatory employment in the last year before retirement unrelated to any other history of signatory employment, holding that such a requirement was irrational *fn4" and that refusal of benefits on that ground alone was arbitrary and capricious.

 The Court suggested that the Trustees might develop a validating context for a requirement of signatory last employment and indicated that a "period of less than five years would manifestly not be sufficient" to establish a significant history of signatory employment warranting eligibility for a flat pension. 439 F.2d at 508. The Court stated that any validating context that might be adopted by the Trustees could be applied wholly prospectively or retroactively, both as to applications based on past retirements and filed after the Roark decision and applications filed and denied before Roark and subsequently presented for reconsideration.

 As a consequence of its decision that a signatory employment requirement could be situated in a validating context by the Trustees and applied retroactively, the Court declined to make its own ruling retroactive and granted relief only to the plaintiffs in that case. The Court concluded that,

 
. . . relief to the parties before us should not be limited to reconsideration of their applications under revised eligibility requirements. Should the Trustees elect to retain the signatory last employment requirement in a validating context, the miners before us will receive no benefit whatever from the fact that they and their counsel have undertaken the substantial burden of the litigation required to demonstrate the present requirement to be arbitrary and invalid. We think that they are entitled to the benefit of that conclusion. 439 F.2d at 509.

 In a later case, DePaoli v. Boyle, 144 U.S. App. D.C. 364, 447 F.2d 334 (1971), the Court was again faced with the signatory last employment requirement. Subsequent to the decision in Roark, supra, the Trustees adopted Resolution 83 in an attempt to provide a validating context for the requirement of signatory last employment. Resolution 83 retained the requirement of signatory employment in the last year before retirement, but it added a condition of a minimum of five years' signatory employment after May 28, 1946, the five-year period being the minimum period acceptable under the decision in Roark.

 The applicability of Resolution 83, however, depended on the dates when applications for benefits were received by the Trustees. The Resolution provided that:

 
1. Applications filed after April 1, 1971 would be governed by Resolution 83;
 
2. Applications filed between August 14, 1970 [the date of the decision in Roark ] and March 31, 1971, would be reviewed ...

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