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OATES v. TEAMSTER AFFILIATES PENSION PLAN

November 16, 1979

Raymond A. Oates, Plaintiff
v.
The Teamster Affiliates Pension Plan et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON, JR.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are Cross Motions for Summary Judgment in an action brought by Raymond Oates against the Teamsters Affiliated Pension Plan (TAPP), the Trustees of said Plan, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT or Teamsters). Plaintiff is suing Defendants for (1) violation of the Employees Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), (2) breach of contract, (3) promissory estoppel, and (4) conversion. All intra-union remedies have been exhausted. Jurisdiction is predicated upon 29 U.S.C. § 1132, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction. *fn1"

 The undisputed facts of this case may be summarized as follows:

 From 1962 to 1975, Plaintiff was President of Teamster Local 158. From 1945 to 1962, Oates was employed by the Seafarers International Union (SIU or Seafarers). At the end of the Korean War, Oates organized the United Industrial Workers (SIU/UIW), a division of the SIU containing approximately 1,200 members. The Seafarers as a whole has approximately 69,000 members.

 While Oates was organizing the SIU/UIW, the Seafarers and the Teamsters were at war. In 1961 James Hoffa, then President of the IBT, met Oates, urging him to join the Teamsters and bring with him his SIU/UIW workers. Under applicable labor law, Oates could only bring with him those workers whose employment contract had expired (approximately 260). Hoffa wanted Oates to form a new Teamster local, using the eligible workers; other SIU/UIW members would join Local 158 as their contracts expired. Oates agreed to Hoffa's plan, and the switch was effectuated successfully. The new local negotiated its first collective bargaining agreement within a week after its inception. As their employment contracts expired, SIU/UIW members joined Local 158. By the time Oates retired in 1975, the Local had over 4,000 members.

 In 1962, the Teamsters recognized Oates' achievement, stating that the formation of Local 158 represented "a mass exodus of officers and rank-and-file from SIU into the IBT," and that "the officers of SIU who came over to the Teamsters have firm commitments from others of the SIU membership . . . that they too will disaffiliate with the SIU and become Teamsters as their contracts expire." *fn2"

 At the Hoffa-Oates meeting, the Teamster President expressly promised Plaintiff that he would receive credit for his years of service with the SIU in determining his Teamster pension. The promise was made in front of Raymond Cohen (the Teamster who initiated Hoffa's contract with Oates). His affidavit is part of the record, and his credibility is unquestioned. Subsequent to ratification of TAPP, Hoffa reiterated the promise in the presence of Stanton Miller and James O'Neill. Their affidavits are part of the record, and their credibility is unchallenged.

 From July 3 to July 7, 1961, the IBT held a convention. It is at this convention that the Plan was first discussed. One of the delegates asked President Hoffa "I happen to be one of the many delegates attending this convention that were affiliated with another International Union. We went over to the Teamsters Union. . . . Do I understand that under this plan the time that we were paid officers of other local unions and transferred to the Teamsters will count under this pension plan?" Hoffa replied "That is correct." The Plan then discussed was the same Plan subsequently enacted.

 The Plan, as enacted in 1962 and as officially explained to beneficiaries, *fn3" stated in pertinent part:

 
You must have at least twenty years of full time employment with an affiliate of IBT, including full time employment with any labor organization prior to the merger or affiliation with IBT of all or a substantial part of its membership.
 
If you become a member of the Plan, you will receive credit for years of full time employment which have been accumulated prior to January 1, 1962.
 
Affiliate, as used herein, means any local union. . . .
 
Costs and Benefits: Your International Union pays the entire cost. ...

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