Whirlpool Sues Union to Modify Retiree Medical Benefits

July 29, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Whirlpool Corporation has filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking judgment that its modification of retiree medical benefits will not violate collective bargaining agreements with unions or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Whirlpool wants the court to approve its move of all current and future retired union employees of the Newton, Iowa, Maytag plants to the Whirlpool Corporation Group Benefit Plan. According to the case filing, the current retirees have been provided retiree medical benefits as dictated by union agreements in place when Whirlpool acquired Maytag in 2006.

Whirlpool said its goal is to get the Newton retirees’ benefits in line with the benefits of other hourly employees.

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America argues Whirlpool cannot modify the retiree medical benefits provided under a collective bargaining agreement, but Whirlpool pointed out in its claim that the union plan allows for “the company” to amend, modify, and/or discontinue the retiree benefits. Whirlpool wants the court to declare the agreement expired as of July 31, 2008, and allow for it to move current retirees under its benefit plan as of January 1, 2009.

The lawsuit affects nearly 3,000 people.

The case filing is here .