The value of professional IAM representation was on prominent display this week with a solid ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of retired IAM members of Local 933 in Tucson, AZ. The ruling by a three-judge panel reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Raytheon Missile Systems acted improperly by cutting off health benefits to IAM retirees.
The initial lawsuit, filed in 2006 by Local 933, argued that Raytheon and its predecessor, Hughes Missile Systems, had agreed through successive labor contracts to pay the health-insurance premiums of anyone at least 55 and retiring before reaching age 65.
The IAM won a federal court ruling in 2008 and a different three-judge appellate panel affirmed the lower-court ruling in 2010. This week’s ruling follows a request by Raytheon for a rehearing.
The decision affects about 600 retirees who were forced in 2004 to start making payments toward their retirement coverage. Those payments continued until a trial judge ruled in favor of the retired workers and ordered the company to start picking up the cost again. The ruling also means Raytheon must reimburse workers for premiums they paid between 2004 and the 2008 trial court ruling.
“Protecting jobs, defending pensions and preserving health care benefits are core values for the IAM,” said Western Territory GVP Gary Allen. “Successive victories in court against one of the nation’s largest and most powerful defense contractors is an example of what can only be accomplished with the resources of a full service union. Congratulations to everyone involved.”
In a newspaper article announcing the decision, Local 933 DBR Jim Watson welcomed the decision, adding that some IAM retirees were faced with premium costs of $400 to $500 per month after Raytheon’s decision.
“I am very grateful to Robert Gregory who represented our retirees and to Dave Lillie, Ron Geuder, Mark Argraves and Clare L’Armee who were the class action representatives for this case,” said Watson.