GREENVILLE — A federal judge has ruled against a company which sought to cut health insurance benefits for a number of local retirees.
On Tuesday, Judge Walter H. Rice of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio issued a permanent injunction ruling that Honeywell must continue to pay the health benefits of retired employees who formerly worked at Fram’s Greenville, Ohio, oil filter manufacturing plant, as well as that of their spouses and dependents.
Fram was once owned by Honeywell, until that company’s automotive consumer product lines were purchased by Rank Group Limited in 2011. Fram Group is headquartered in Lake Forest, Illinois. Fram’s manufacturing facility in Greenville currently employs approximately 450 workers.
In his decision, Judge Rice said the language in the 2000 to 2003 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and subsequent CBA’s was “ambiguous” as it regarded health care for retirees and their beneficiaries.
“Plaintiffs have proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Honeywell agreed to provide lifetime healthcare benefits to its retirees at the Greenville, Ohio, plant. Honeywell’s plan to terminate those benefits as of February 28, 2017, therefore breaches the terms of the relevant collective bargaining agreements,” the ruling stated.
Honeywell had previously sought to dismiss the lawsuit in November 2016, but their motion was overruled by Judge Rice.
The company faces similar lawsuits in other regions. A federal court judge in Toledo, Ohio, ruled for Honeywell in December. On February 8, a federal judge in Connecticut sided with the plaintiffs against the corporation.
The listed plaintiffs in the Greenville case — Barbara Fletcher, Timothy Philpot, Marcia Fink and Lucinda Smith — alleged that Honeywell was obligated under the governing CBA to provide them, their spouses and other eligible dependents and surviving spouses, and others similarly-situated, with lifetime retiree healthcare.
Honeywell claimed that the benefits only lasted through the end of the last contract, announcing in December 2015 that its contribution to the retirees’ medical and prescription coverage would end December 31, 2016.
Rob Ferris, vice president of External Communications and Public Affairs at Honeywell, issued a statement, saying, “Honeywell disagrees with the Court’s decision and will be filing an appeal with the Sixth Circuit.”
Randy Clark, president of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2413 said the ruling will affect approximately 600 Fram retirees.
“I can’t see how the judge could have done it any other way,” he said. “It’s a win for the small guy against the big corporation. There’s a lot of happy people here today.”
Fram retirees posting on social media reflected that happiness.
Sylvia J. Garrett posted on Facebook, “FRAMMERS!! JUST POSTED ~~ WE WON. Tears for our Fram Family! Tears of Joy!!”
Beverly McCabe-Baker also posted, saying, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Honeywell retirees just learned this morning that WE won our lawsuit against Honeywell and we get to keep our insurance that they provide. Thanks to all that prayed us through.”