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Court requires employer to comply with agreement to pay union benefits, despite management failure to sign CBA

A Plumber & Pipefitter Union was forced to sue B & B Mechanical Services, Inc., after it refused to pay benefit funds it had negotiated.  The executives of the company argued that they never signed the pertinent Collective Bargaining Agreement, and that the company's payment of benefits for ten years had been "voluntary" and not binding.  The District Court agreed with the employer's argument and the Union appealed to the Sixth Circuit. 

The higher court rejected the employer's argument.  The court noted longstanding precedent affirming that a union-management written agreement may be documented in a writing other than the CBA, provided it "sets out the employer's obligation to contribute."  In this case, company executives signed several related documents confirming the company's obligation to pay the subject benefits, including monthly certifications of CBA coverage.  Under these circumstances, the company's executives' failure to execute the CBA, itself, did not eliminate the duty it recognized for ten years.  Summary disposition for the company was reversed.

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