Ruling keeps health care benefits intact for UAW retirees in Ohio

DETROIT –Retirees from a closed Moen International facility in Ohio will continue to receive their health care benefits, thanks to a group of

Ken Lortz, UAW Region 2B Director

retirees and the UAW who successfully convinced a federal judge that their contract was clear on the issue.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled on Tuesday that the collective bargaining agreements the UAW negotiated with Moen International and its predecessors, including an agreement negotiated in 2008 over the closing of the Elyria facility, were clear and granted summary judgment to the union and its retirees. Judge Gwin ruled that the retiree health care benefits are lifetime vested benefits and the faucet manufacturer cannot reduce or eliminate them.

Moen “told union negotiators that the retirees would receive health care benefits for the rest of their lives as long as they paid the co-premiums,” Judge Gwin noted in his ruling.

The UAW and the retirees sued Moen in federal court after it announced in 2013 it planned to shift non-Medicare eligible retirees to a plan that would substantially increase their costs. Moen also announced it would eliminate retiree health care for Medicare-eligible retirees, dependents and surviving spouses.

John Gallo, a retired UAW member from the Moen facility, was one of a group of workers who initiated the lawsuit.  “I feel so lucky to have the UAW fighting to protect us against corporations like Moen, who would toss aside retirees who worked their entire lives to help make the company successful,” said Gallo. 

Ken Lortz, director of UAW Region 2B, which includes Ohio, said employers such as Moen continue to attack the benefits that retirees have earned

“We’re happy the judge ruled that the contracts the UAW negotiated were clear in its intent and I’m even more pleased that the judge permanently enjoined Moen from terminating retiree benefits,” Lortz said. “But it proves that even though there’s a signed a contract some companies will still try to walk away from their obligations. We will continue to stand by our retirees and defend their contract.”