Employers may adopt a collective bargaining agreement by a course of conduct.
Appellant employer signed the national master collective bargaining agreement with the union when it started its business. When the agreement expired, appellant promised to adhere to it but failed to actually sign it. Appellant, among other things, paid wages, made pension and welfare contributions, and settled grievances under the terms of the agreement. Appellant later terminated the agreement. Appellees, trustees of funds for the benefit of the employees, brought an action against appellant to recover the sums provided by the agreement. During discovery, appellees learned that appellant had concealed the identities of some of its employees and had paid nothing on their accounts. The district court granted summary judgment to appellees. The appellate court affirmed the district court's decision as to the grant of summary judgment.
Was appellant employer bound by the collective bargaining agreement which it did not sign?
Appellant employer adopted the collective bargaining agreement by its course of conduct. Appellant paid the union scale, turned over dues, negotiated grievances, and paid some pension and welfare contributions. All of the factors pointed to appellant’s acceptance of the agreement, and it was bound by the terms. Any undisclosed side agreements between the union and appellant did not bind appellee trustees and were not material to their action to collect contributions from appellant.