Court reinstates retiree benefits at Rexam

A California District Court gave a group of Rexam retirees a major victory when it ordered Rexam, the giant consumer packaging and beverage can manufacturer, to reinstate retiree medical and prescription drug benefits that Rexam unilaterally terminated effective Jan. 1, 2006.

Rexam is one of many corporations across America pushing to drop retiree health benefits.

The court’s decision applies to Machinist Union retirees from now shuttered can plants in Vancouver and Kent, Washington. The Vancouver plant was represented by Local Lodge 1374, an affiliate of Machinists District Lodge 24.

The Vancouver plant operated as the National Can Company, then changed to American National Can in 1989 following a buyout. American National was purchased by Silgan Can in 1996 and the plant was shut down in 1999. Rexam acquired American National Can in 2000. Most of the retired Machinists Union members were covered under the American National Can retiree insurance plan, which was assumed by Silgan and later by Rexam.

The court cited language in the union contracts and benefit plan documents that promised retirees lifetime coverage.

District Court Judge Claudia Wilken granted a request for a preliminary injunction against Rexam, ordered the company to “reinstate all medical and prescription drug benefit plans provided before Jan. 1, 2006” and declared “Rexam is also enjoined from terminating the health benefits of any class member receiving or entitled to receive benefits under these plans.”