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Home > Blog > Blog > Pension Plans > First Circuit Finds Union Dispute with Employer Over 401(k) Plan Matching to Be Arbitrable Under CBA

First Circuit Finds Union Dispute with Employer Over 401(k) Plan Matching to Be Arbitrable Under CBA

In Johnson Controls Security Solutions, LLC v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103, No. 21-1460, _F.4th_, 2022 WL 262963 (1st Cir. Jan. 28, 2022), the First Circuit reversed the district court’s declaratory judgment in favor of Johnson Controls in its lawsuit under the LMRA seeking a declaratory judgment that a dispute between it and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103 (the “Union”) is not arbitrable under their collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). Excluded from the Arbitration Clause in the CBA is “any dispute which either directly or indirectly involves the interpretation or application of the plans covering pensions, disability benefits and death benefits.” At issue is a provision in the CBA that states Johnson Controls “agrees to provide the 401(k) Plan, disability benefits and death benefits as in effect as of May 6, 2008.” The Union filed a grievance after Johnson Controls temporarily reduced its matching contribution to the Company’s 401(k) plan. Johnson Controls claimed the dispute is not arbitrable. The First Circuit determined that “the only issue raised by the Union’s grievance is whether Johnson Controls’ unilateral reduction in its matching contribution to the 401(k) plan violates the language of the CBA.” Relying on AT & T Techs., Inc. v. Commc’ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 106 S. Ct. 1415, 89 L. Ed. 2d 648 (1986), the court found that Johnson Controls presented no evidence to rebut the presumption of arbitrability and nothing in the record shows the parties intended to exclude a dispute over the meaning of a provision in the CBA from the scope of the arbitration clause.

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