818 F.2d 1102 (4th Cir. 1987), 85-2395, Clark v. Ryan

Docket Nº:85-2395.
Citation:818 F.2d 1102
Party Name:Hugh B. CLARK, Trustee; Jack L. Thomas, Trustee; Roanoke Iron Workers Trust Fund; Roanoke Iron Workers Pension Fund; and Roanoke Iron Workers Apprentice Fund, Appellants, v. A.A. RYAN, Jr., Appellee.
Case Date:May 15, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 1102

818 F.2d 1102 (4th Cir. 1987)

Hugh B. CLARK, Trustee; Jack L. Thomas, Trustee; Roanoke

Iron Workers Trust Fund; Roanoke Iron Workers

Pension Fund; and Roanoke Iron Workers

Apprentice Fund, Appellants,

v.

A.A. RYAN, Jr., Appellee.

No. 85-2395.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

May 15, 1987

Argued Dec. 11, 1986.

Page 1103

Lawrence C. Musgrove, Jr., Roanoke, Va., on brief, for appellants.

James H. Fulghum, Jr. (King, Fulghum, Snead & Hale, P.C., on brief), Roanoke, Va., for appellee.

Before ERVIN, WILKINSON and WILKINS, Circuit Judges.

WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

Appellants Clark and Thomas, trustees of three trust funds established by Local 697, International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers, brought suit against A.A. Ryan to recover $22,534.29 in unpaid trust fund contributions on behalf of his non-union workers. The trial court held that Ryan was obliged to make payments for his union workers only. We believe that the district court overlooked the plain terms of the collective

Page 1104

bargaining agreement. We accordingly reverse the judgment and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

I.

Local 697 and the Southwest Virginia Contractors Association, an association of local contractors who regularly hire workers represented by the union, are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. The agreement designates Local 697 as the exclusive bargaining representative for "all persons employed" by the contractors who fall within the craft classifications specified in Article I of the agreement. The agreement requires employers to make contributions to three trust funds which are administered by the Local. The agreement also contains a termination provision which states:

This agreement shall be in force from June 1, 1980, through May 31, 1982, and shall be automatically renewed from year to year unless on or before March 1, 1982, notice of an intent to terminate it be given by certified mail by either party to the other party.

Appellee Ryan regularly employs four workers in his small iron fabricating business. From time to time, he supplements his non-union work force by contracting with Local 697 for union labor. Ryan was not a member of the contractors' association. On February 6, 1980, however, he became a party to the agreement between Local 697 and the contractors' association by signing a one-page short form agreement which incorporates the master agreement by reference.

The short form agreement states that "the Employer agrees to make payments to the stated Plans covering all of its employees in the craft classification represented by and within the jurisdiction of Local Union 697." Article III, Section I of the master agreement requires employers to pay into the health and welfare trust fund for each hour "worked by employees represented by Local 697." Article III, Section 2, pertaining to pension contributions and Article VIII referring to apprenticeship contributions, require payments from employers for each hour worked "by an employee in the craft classification represented by Local No. 697." Ryan made contributions to the three funds from August, 1980, through October, 1982, on behalf of his union employees, but he did not contribute for his non-union employees.

Appellants brought suit, claiming that Ryan owed a total of $22,534.29 in contributions on behalf of his non-union workers for the period of August, 1980 through August, 1983, at which time appellants filed their complaint. At the district court, Ryan contended that appellants orally assured him when he signed the one-page agreement that he was obligated to contribute only for those of his employees who were union members. Ryan also asserted that he terminated the agreement sometime during the summer of 1982 by orally notifying appellant Clark of his withdrawal.

The district court found that the agreement was ambiguous as to whether Ryan was required to make trust fund contributions for his non-union employees; it thereupon took testimony on the parties' intentions. The court found credible Ryan's testimony that he believed himself obligated to make contributions only on behalf of his union employees. The district court also found that Ryan withdrew from the agreement by notifying appellee Clark in July, 1982, and was not responsible for payments accruing after that time. Pursuant to these findings, the district court entered a judgment against Ryan for $2,449.05.

II.

Appellants claim that...

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