|Case Forum:||Michigan Supreme Court|
|Keywords:||collective bargaining agreement (CBA), contract, Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), arbitration, retirement plans, actuarial equivalent, plain meaning, past practices|
Mary Massaron Ross | Josephine A. DeLorenzo | Plunkett Cooney | 38503 Woodward Ave., Suite 2000 | Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304 | 313-983-4801
1. Michigan Townships Association (MTA)
Amicus counsel argues that Port Huron, a case of binding authority, does not require parties to bargain over a subject that is covered in a CBA. In the present case, the CBA stated that the Macomb County Retirement Ordinance, stating that a retiree can choose the “actuarial equivalent” of the straight life retirement, controls optional retirement benefits. Therefore, according to the CBA, the Retirement Commission had the authority to alter the mortality table, and any disputes as to “actuarial equivalence” are to be solved by the grievance process or arbitration, not MERC. Counsel further argues that the term “actuarial equivalent” is not ambiguous, but as seen in attorney general opinions, means “equal value.” Thus, the unambiguous contract language is controlling, not the past practice of using the 100% female table. Additionally, Counsel argues that Port Huron requires a higher burden of proof to demonstrate that a past practice has altered unambiguous contract language, this burden was not met in the present case, and that this burden is necessary to the collective bargaining process by ensuring sanctity of contract. Lastly, counsel argues that the Court should reaffirm the Port Huron analysis in order to protect bargained for agreements, like the CBA in this case, and the solvency of retirement systems.
The Supreme Court held:
|MSC requested LDF amicus brief?||Yes|
Charging Parties-Appellees (“the unions”) each filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge (“ULP”) against Respondents-Appellants Macomb County, Macomb County Road Commission and the 16th Judicial Circuit Court (“Respondents” or “the employers”). . Each of the ULPs challenged the Macomb County