STEPHENSON, Circuit Judge.
The Trustees of the United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Funds (Trustees) appeal from the summary judgment entered by the district court
On October 29, 1973, Morgan filed an application for benefits from the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund. The pension eligibility requirements applicable to Morgan are set forth in Resolution 90, which was drawn and adopted by the Trustees in 1972, pursuant to their authority under the 1950 Wage Agreement. Morgan's application was eventually denied for failure to meet certain requirements of Resolution 90.
Morgan filed a complaint in the Arkansas courts, alleging the Trustees had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying him pension benefits. The suit was removed to federal court and an answer filed by the Trustees on May 24, 1978.
An additional hearing was set before the Trustees on July 11, 1978. The Trustees finally determined, and it is not contested, that Morgan had worked a total of 16¾ credit years in the coal industry when he ceased work in October 1973. 12½ years credit had been for employment with an employer who had signed the applicable National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement. Morgan argued that his receipt of Black Lung benefits from 1973 to 1977 should apply as "years of service" as defined in Resolution 90, but the Trustees refused to credit the Black Lung years because his employment in the mines subsequent to April 1, 1971, was with a nonsignatory employer. The case, before the district court on cross-motions for summary judgment, was referred to a magistrate. The magistrate, and subsequently the district court, agreed with Morgan and determined that the Trustees had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in their determination. This appeal followed.
Review by the courts of the Trustees' decision is limited. A reviewing court will intervene in the administration of a pension plan only where the trustees' action is arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Bueneman v. Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, 572 F.2d 1208, 1209 (8th Cir. 1978); Phillips v. Kennedy, 542 F.2d 52, 54 (8th Cir. 1976); Maness v. Williams, 513 F.2d 1264, 1265 (8th Cir. 1975). Where the Trustees impose a standard not required by the pension plan itself, this court has stated that such action "would result in an unwarranted and arbitrary construction of the Plan." Maness v. Williams, supra, 513 F.2d at 1267.
Thus our inquiry is to determine whether the Trustees' interpretation of Resolution 90 violates the above standards. Resolution 90 provides in relevant part:
APPLICATIONS YEARS OF RECEIVED SIGNATORY DURING THE SERVICE PERIOD REQUIRED ------------ -------- Prior to December 31, 1976 Five (5) years
It is not disputed that Morgan has attained the age of fifty-five and has sufficient
Our inquiry does not end there, however. The Trustees argue that even if Morgan's interpretation is reasonable, the Trustees' decision must be upheld if it too is reasonable. Lowenstern v. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 479 F.2d 1211, 1213 (D.C.Cir.1973). We therefore examine the reasonableness of the Trustees' interpretation.
The last paragraph of I.A.2 states that employment in the coal industry after April 1, 1971, must be for a signatory employer for the miner to receive service credit. The Trustees interpret "employment in the coal industry" to mean employment as defined in II.A.1(a),
The Trustees contend their interpretation is reasonable because it has a proper and reasonable purpose — to treat nonworking miners the same as working miners. Morgan's employment in 1972 and 1973 had been for a nonsignatory employer and clearly was not and could not be counted towards the twenty years of service. Morgan is not contesting this. Therefore if he had continued to work for this nonsignatory employer, he would have earned no more credit than the 16¾ years he already possessed. The Trustees argue that to award him credit for Black Lung benefits years would be to treat nonworking miners more favorably than working miners. Thus the Trustees contend that a reasonable interpretation is to treat working and nonworking miners in an equal manner. This argument, however, assumes that but for Morgan's disabling disease he would have remained working for a nonsignatory employer. However, Morgan had worked most of his coal industry years, including 1967-1971, for signatory employers. Knowing he needed a few more years of service to receive the pension benefits, it is reasonable to assume he would have sought signatory employment at the first opportunity. However, because
The provision in II.A.1(b) for credit for Black Lung benefit years is intended to reward miners who have substantial signatory employment but were prevented from further employment because of the occupational disease. This is made clear by the II.A.1(b) requirement that the miner have ten years of signatory employment in order to count Black Lung benefit years, whereas Morgan otherwise needed only five years of signatory employment. Thus the Trustees' interpretation frustrates the purpose of the plan to make fair provision for miners who have become incapacitated, but have significant signatory employment.
There is a further indication that the Trustees' interpretation is unreasonable and unwarranted. II.A.1(b) also requires that in order for Morgan to obtain credit for the time he received Black Lung benefits, he must have been employed after December 30, 1969, in a classified job under the bituminous coal wage agreement. However, if we accept the Trustees' interpretation and apply the last paragraph I.A.2 to credit for Black Lung benefits time, then Morgan is required to have been employed after April 1, 1971, in a classified job with an employer signatory to the wage agreement. Thus the "last employment" clause of II.A.1(b) (the Black Lung benefits section) would be rendered superfluous. In Maness v. Williams, supra, this court found that the trustees' construction of a pension plan was arbitrary and capricious because the interpretation made certain requirements in the plan superfluous. See also Reiherzer v. Shannon, 581 F.2d 1266, 1272-73 (7th Cir. 1978).
We conclude the Trustees acted arbitrarily and capriciously in interpreting Resolution 90 in a way which is inconsistent with the plain words of the document and which renders some requirements superfluous.
Because the record does not indicate exactly when Morgan began to receive Black Lung benefits, we agree with the district court that the case must be remanded to the Trustees for this determination and the consequent award of pension benefits.