Justice Thomas, delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case arises out of the Commissioner of Social Security's assignment, pursuant to the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (Coal Act or Act), 26 U. S. C. § 9701 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. V), of 86 retired coal miners to the Jericol Mining, Inc. (Jericol). The question presented is whether the Coal Act permits the Commissioner to assign retired miners to the successors in interest of out-of-business signatory operators.
The Coal Act reconfigured the system for providing private health care benefits to retirees in the coal industry. In restructuring this system, Congress had to contend with
This was not the first time that the Federal Government had been called on to intervene in negotiations within the industry. Such tensions motivated President Truman, in 1946, to issue an Executive Order directing the Secretary of the Interior to take possession of all bituminous coal mines and to negotiate with the UMWA over changes in the terms and conditions of miners' employment. See Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel, 524 U.S. 498, 504-505 (1998) (plurality opinion) (quoting 11 Fed. Reg. 5593 (1946)). These negotiations culminated in the first of many agreements that resulted in the creation of benefit funds compensating miners, their dependents, and their survivors. 524 U. S., at 505.
Subsequently, in 1947, the UMWA and several coal operators entered into a collectively bargained agreement, the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (NBCWA), which established a fund under which three trustees "were given authority to determine," among other things, the allocation of benefits to miners and their families. Id., at 505-506. Further disagreement prompted the parties to negotiate another NBCWA in 1950. The following year, the Bituminous Coal Operators' Association (BCOA) was created as a multiemployer bargaining association and primary representative for the coal operators in their negotiations with the UMWA. Id., at 506.
These benefit plans quickly developed financial problems. Thus, in 1978 the parties executed another NBCWA. This agreement assigned responsibility for the health care of active and retired employees to the respective coal mine operators who were signatories to the earlier NBCWAs, and left the 1974 Benefit Plan in effect only for those retirees whose former employers were no longer in business. Id., at 510.
Nonetheless, financial problems continued to plague the plans "as costs increased and employers who had signed the 1978 NBCWA withdrew from the agreement, either to continue in business with nonunion employees or to exit the coal business altogether." Id., at 511. "As more and more coal operators abandoned the Benefit Plans, the remaining signatories were forced to absorb the increasing cost of covering retirees left behind by exiting employers." Ibid. Pursuant to yet another NBCWA, the UMWA and the BCOA in 1988 attempted to remedy the problem, this time by imposing withdrawal liability on NBCWA signatories that seceded from the benefit plans.
Despite these efforts, the plans remained in serious financial crisis and, by June 1991, the 120,000 individuals who
The UMWA threatened to strike if a legislative solution was not reached. Karr A6. And BCOA members, which included those coal firms that were currently signatories to NBCWAs, threatened that they would not renew their commitments to cover retiree costs when their contracts expired. Ibid. Following another strike and much unrest, Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole created the Advisory Commission on United Mine Workers of America Retiree Health Benefits (Coal Commission), which studied the problem and proposed several solutions. Eastern Enterprises, 524 U. S., at 511— 512. In particular, the Coal Commission focused on how to finance the health care benefits of orphaned retirees.
Congress considered these and other proposals and eventually reconfigured the allocation of health benefits for coal miner retirees by enacting the Coal Act in 1992. Crafting the legislative solution to the crisis, however, was no easy task. The Coal Act was passed amidst a maelstrom of contract
Respondent Jericol was formed in 1973 as Irdell Mining, Inc. (Irdell). Shortly thereafter, Irdell and another company purchased the coal mining operating assets of Shackleford Coal Company, a company that was a signatory to a coal
Acting pursuant to § 9706(a), between 1993 and 1997, the Commissioner assigned premium responsibility for over 100 retired miners and dependents to Jericol. Of these, 86 were assigned under § 9706(a)(3) because they had worked for Shackleford and the Commissioner determined that as a "successor" or "successor in interest" to the original Shackleford, Jericol qualified as a "related person" to Shackleford. The others were assigned because they had actually worked for Jericol. Jericol appealed most of the Commissioner's determinations,
Dissatisfied with the outcome of administrative proceedings, respondent Sigmon Coal Company, Inc.,
The Commissioner appealed, arguing that a "straight reading" of the statute shows that a successor in interest to a signatory operator qualifies as a related person, thereby permitting the assignment of the retirees and dependents to Jericol. 226 F. 3d, at 303. Alternatively, the Commissioner argued that the District Court's "reading . . . produces inexplicable, anomalous results that are clearly at odds with congressional intent." Ibid.
"[D]eclin[ing] the Commissioner's invitation to rewrite the Coal Act," the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed. Id., at 294. The Court of Appeals concluded that the "statute is clear and unambiguous" and that the court was "bound to read it exactly as it is written." Ibid. Accordingly, the court held that Jericol was not a "related person" to Shackleford and thus could not be held responsible for Shackleford's miners. The Court of Appeals rejected the Commissioner's arguments that this reading either contravenes congressional intent or begets "some fairly odd results." Id., at 305, 307. Rather, the Court of Appeals found plausible Jericol's explanation that the plain text of the Act was consistent with Congress' desire to promote the sale of coal companies and to respond to complaints by coal operators that they were being required to pay benefits for retired miners who had neither worked for them nor maintained any other relationship with them. Id., at 307. A plausible explanation, the court concluded, "is all we need
We granted certiorari, 532 U.S. 993 (2001), and now affirm.
As in all statutory construction cases, we begin with the language of the statute. The first step "is to determine whether the language at issue has a plain and unambiguous meaning with regard to the particular dispute in the case." Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 340 (1997) (citing United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 240 (1989)). The inquiry ceases "if the statutory language is unambiguous and `the statutory scheme is coherent and consistent.' " 519 U. S., at 340.
With respect to the question presented in this case, this statute is unambiguous. The statutory text instructs that the Coal Act does not permit the Commissioner to assign beneficiaries to the successor in interest of a signatory operator. The statute provides:
"(1) First, to the signatory operator which—
In this case, the Commissioner determined that because Shackleford is a pre-1978 signatory and employed the disputed miners for over 24 months, assignment must be made under category 3. It then assigned the miners to Jericol after determining that Jericol was a successor in interest to Shackleford and was therefore a "related person" to Shackleford. 226 F. 3d, at 298.
We disagree with the Commissioner's reasoning. Because the disputed retirees were employees of Shackleford, the "signatory operator" that sold its assets to Jericol (thenIrdell) in 1973, the Commissioner can only assign them to Jericol if it is a "related person" to Shackleford. The statute provides that "a person shall be considered to be a related person to a signatory operator if that person" falls within one of three categories:
In addition, the last sentence of § 9701(c)(2)(A) states that "[a] related person shall also include a successor in interest of any person described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii)."
Although the Commissioner maintains that Jericol is a "related person" to Shackleford, Jericol does not fall within any of the three specified categories defining a "related person." There is no contention that it was ever a member of a controlled group of corporations including Shackleford, that it was ever a business under common control with Shackleford, or that it ever had a partnership interest or engaged in a joint venture with Shackleford. Therefore, liability for these beneficiaries may attach to Jericol only if it is a successor in interest to an entity described in §§ 9701(c)(2)(A)(i)— (iii). Because Jericol is a successor in interest only to Shackleford, Jericol will be liable only if a signatory operator itself, here Shackleford, falls within one of these categories. None of the three categories, however, includes the signatory operator itself.
Nor should we infer as much, as it is a general principle of statutory construction that when "`Congress includes particular language in one section of a statute but omits it in another section of the same Act, it is generally presumed that Congress acts intentionally and purposely in the disparate inclusion or exclusion.'" Russello v. United States, 464 U.S. 16, 23 (1983) (quoting United States v. Wong Kim Bo, 472 F.2d 720, 722 (CA5 1972)). Where Congress wanted to provide for successor liability in the Coal Act, it did so explicitly,
For example, § 9706(b)(2) provides that with respect to beneficiaries of the Combined Fund, "[i]f a person becomes a successor of an assigned operator after the enactment date [of the Coal Act], the assigned operator may transfer the assignment of an eligible beneficiary . . . to such successor, and such successor shall be treated as the assigned operator with respect to such eligible beneficiary for purposes of this chapter." (Emphasis added.) The subsection also provides, however, that "the assigned operator transferring such assignment (and any related person) shall remain the guarantor of the benefits provided to the eligible beneficiary under this chapter." Ibid. While this provision gives a postenactment successor the option of transferring the assignment and assuming the signatory operator's liability, it does not address the liability of preenactment successors.
Further, § 9711 enumerates the continuing obligations of Individual Employer Plans (IEPs) maintained pursuant to a 1978 or subsequent coal wage agreement.
Those subsections stand in direct contrast to the provisions implicated here: §§ 9701(c)(1), (2), and (4), which define "signatory operator," "related persons," and "last signatory operator," respectively, "[f]or [the] purposes of this section,"
Despite the unambiguous language of the statute with respect to those entities to whom successor liability attaches, the Commissioner essentially asks that we read into the statute mandatory liability for preenactment successors in interest to signatory operators. This we will not do. "We refrain from concluding here that the differing language in the two subsections has the same meaning in each. We would not presume to ascribe this difference to a simple mistake in draftsmanship." Russello, supra, at 23. Congress wrote the statute in a manner that provides for liability only for successors in interest to certain signatory operators. If Congress meant to make a preenactment successor in interest like Jericol liable, it could have done so clearly and explicitly.
Therefore, because the statute is explicit as to who may be assigned liability for beneficiaries and neither the "related persons" provision nor any other provision states that successors in interest to signatory operators may be assigned liability, the plain language of the statute necessarily precludes the Commissioner from assigning the disputed miners to Jericol.
The Commissioner admits that the "statute does not state in haec verba that an assignment may be made to a direct successor in interest of the entity that was the signatory operator itself." Brief for Petitioner 10. Nonetheless, the Commissioner concludes that, in light of the text, structure, and purposes of the Coal Act, such direct successors in interest are included within the liability scheme and should be responsible for a signatory operator's Combined Fund premiums if the signatory operator itself is defunct and there is no other "related person" still in business. Ibid. We address the Commissioner's arguments below.
The Commissioner proposes several readings of the statute. First, the Commissioner argues that, because the last sentence of § 9701(c)(2)(A) states that the term "related person" "include[s]" a successor in interest of "any person described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii)," and because these clauses mention the "signatory operator" itself, the signatory operator is "described" in clause (i) by virtue of the express reference. Brief for Petitioner 24.
The text of the statute does not support this reading. Where Congress wanted to include successors in interest, it did so clearly and explicitly. See supra, at 452-453. Each category of "related persons" describes a definitive group of persons. § 9701(c)(2). Congress neither created a separate category for signatory operators nor included signatory operators within these categories. It is unlikely that Congress intended to attach liability to a group such as successors in interest to signatory operators through a general clause that was meant to reach persons "described" in one of three explicit categories.
Second, the Commissioner argues that, under § 9701(c)(2) (A)(i), a signatory operator is necessarily a member of a controlled group of corporations that includes itself. Brief for Petitioner 24. This subsection provides that "related persons" include "a member of the controlled group of corporations (within the meaning of section 52(a)) which includes such signatory operator." § 9701(c)(2)(A)(i). Thus, according to the Commissioner's logic, if corporation A is a member of a controlled group that includes corporations A, B, and C, then a "successor in interest" of a member of the group of corporations A, B, and C includes a successor in interest of corporation A. Ibid.
Standing alone, the subsection supports the Commissioner's argument that a signatory operator is necessarily a member of a group of corporations that includes itself. But this provision cannot be divorced from the clause that begins
The Commissioner also contends that the background, legislative history, and purposes of the Coal Act confirm that Congress intended that liability for a signatory operator's employees could be placed on the signatory's direct successor in interest.
As support, the Commissioner turns to the floor statements of Senators Malcolm Wallop and Jay Rockefeller, arguing that, because these Senators sponsored the Coal Act, their views are entitled to special weight. In particular, the Commissioner relies on an explanation of the legislation placed into the record by Senator Wallop, making the point that, in addition to the three categories of related persons, "the statute provides that related persons" includes "(iv) in specific instances successors to the collective bargaining agreement obligations of a signatory operator." 138 Cong.
Floor statements from two Senators cannot amend the clear and unambiguous language of a statute. We see no reason to give greater weight to the views of two Senators than to the collective votes of both Houses, which are memorialized in the unambiguous statutory text.
The Commissioner also argues that construing the related person provision to exclude a signatory's direct successor in interest would be contrary to Congress' stated purpose of ensuring that each Combined Fund beneficiary's health care costs is borne (if possible) by the person with the most direct responsibility for the beneficiary, not by persons that had no connection with the beneficiary or by the public fisc. The Commissioner contends that the Court should choose a construction of the statute that effectuates Congress' "overriding purpose" of avoiding a recurrence of the orphan retiree catastrophe, which was caused in large part by operators avoiding responsibility for their beneficiaries by changing their corporate structures, selling assets, or ceasing operations. See Brief for Petitioner 30.
Respondents correctly note that the Court rarely invokes such a test to override unambiguous legislation. Moreover, respondents offer several explanations for why Congress would have purposefully exempted successors in interest of a signatory operator from the "related person" definition.
Second, respondents speculate that Congress may have concluded that injecting coal industry successor issues into the Commissioner's task of allocating liability for more than 100,000 UMWA retirees and dependents would consume a disproportionate share of the agency's resources, create gridlock in the assignment process, precipitate endless operator challenges under the Coal Act's administrative review process, and thwart implementation of the program. Id., at 43— 45. Finally, respondents suggest that Congress could have been concerned about the adverse impact that successor liability might have had on the valuation and sale of union companies and properties.
Where the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, we need neither accept nor reject a particular "plausible" explanation for why Congress would have written a statute
Our role is to interpret the language of the statute enacted by Congress. This statute does not contain conflicting provisions or ambiguous language. Nor does it require a narrowing construction or application of any other canon or interpretative tool. "We have stated time and again that courts must presume that a legislature says in a statute what
The Commissioner's final argument is that, even if the Coal Act did not affirmatively provide that responsibility for combined fund premiums may be imposed on a signatory's direct successor, it was reasonable for the Commissioner to conclude that direct successors of a signatory operator should be responsible for the operator's employees. Congress, however, did not delegate authority to the Commissioner to develop new guidelines or to assign liability in a manner inconsistent with the statute. In the context of an unambiguous statute, we need not contemplate deferring to the agency's interpretation. See Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842— 843 (1984).
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Justice Stevens, with whom Justice O'Connor and Justice Breyer join, dissenting.
This case raises the question whether clear evidence of coherent congressional intent should inform the Court's construction of a statutory provision that seems, at first blush, to convey an incoherent message. Today, a majority of the Court chooses to disregard that evidence and, instead, adheres
The Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (Coal Act or Act), 26 U. S. C. § 9701 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. V), authorizes the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) to assign responsibility for providing health care benefits for certain retired coal miners and their beneficiaries. It was enacted in response to the financial difficulties that had plagued the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreements (NBCWAs), a multi employer, private health care system, established by representatives of the coal industry and the United Mine Workers Association (UMWA). See Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel, 524 U.S. 498, 511 (1998). The NBCWAs were part of an arrangement in which the UMWA accepted collective-bargaining agreements dictating wages, benefits, and other terms of employment in exchange for, inter alia, promises regarding the provision of lifetime health benefits for retired miners. After many of the coal operators who were signatories to the NBCWAs went out of business or withdrew from their coverage, the remaining signatories were forced to assume a share of the health care costs for those operators' employees.
Consequently, the remaining members had an even greater incentive to avoid their obligations under the agreements. Ibid. The ensuing downward spiral threatened the NBCWAs' ability to provide health benefits. In evaluating legislative solutions, Congress "was advised that more than 120,000 retirees might not receive `the benefits they were promised' " during the collective-bargaining process. Id., at 513 (quoting Coal Commission Report on Health Benefits of Retired Coal Miners: Hearing before the Subcommittee on
To accomplish that goal, the Act directs the Commissioner to assign primary responsibility to a "signatory operator" that formerly employed the particular miners and to persons "related" to that operator. The broad definition of the term "related person" includes three classes of entities associated with the signatory and a catchall sentence stating that a "related person shall also include a successor in interest of any person described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii)."
The Commissioner reads the statute broadly to include direct successors, whereas the Court has adopted a narrower reading that excludes them from responsibility. Because a signatory operator is not "described in" clause (i), (ii), or (iii),
Two examples illustrate the absurdity of the Court's reading. First, imagine that corporations "A" and "B" operate coal mines in Kentucky and Illinois, respectively. A and B are affiliated corporations; let us say they are members of the same controlled group of corporations. In 1974, each company became a signatory to one of the coal agreements. Subsequently, they both sell their assets to separate purchasers. Under the Court's reading of the Act, the purchaser of the Kentucky mines would be responsible for the health care costs of the Illinois miners and the purchaser of the Illinois mines would be assigned the retirees of the Kentucky company, but neither purchaser would be liable for its predecessor's retired employees.
Now, consider a slightly different scenario in which A still operates a coal mine, but B runs a dairy farm. They are still members of the same controlled group of corporations, however, only A is a signatory of the 1974 agreement. In this hypothetical, when A and B sell their assets, under the Court's reading of the statute, the purchaser of the dairy farm will be liable for the retired miners' benefits while the purchaser of the coal mine has no liability. If that result is not absurd, it is surely incoherent. Why would Congress order such an odd result?
The answer is simple—Congress did not intend this result. Commenting on the final text of the bill that was ultimately enacted, two of the Senators sponsoring the measure explained their understanding of the statutory text to their colleagues.
Not only is the direct successor put on notice; presumably it received a lower sale price in exchange for assuming the collective-bargaining agreement obligations of its predecessor. Consider the facts of this case. Respondent, Jericol Mining, Inc., purchased the coal mining assets of Shackleford Coal Co., a signatory to the 1971 NBCWA. The sales contract
While the Court trumpets the clear language of the statute, the language here is not clear enough to require disregard of "clearly expressed legislative intention to the contrary," Consumer Product Safety Comm'n v. GTE Sylvania, Inc., 447 U.S. 102, 108 (1980), or to require us to accept "absurd results," United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576, 580 (1981) (citing Trans Alaska Pipeline Rate Cases, 436 U.S. 631, 643 (1978)). See infra, at 469-470. Nevertheless, the Court accepts respondents' claim that, even if the statute produces odd results, this scheme is the product of a legislative compromise that we cannot override. The drafters, according to this theory, may have confronted significant opposition from successors of signatories who would have faced liability under alternative language. Or Congress may have been concerned that imposing liability on successors would create a disincentive for potential purchasers of coal companies' assets.
If the negotiations were as contentious as respondents imagine and if the Act excluded direct successors as the product of horsetrading, then one would expect a response to the statements of two Senators directly contradicting the terms of that legislative bargain. Surely those Senators who disagreed with Senators Rockefeller and Wallop would have said something to set the record straight. To the contrary, there is no evidence in the legislative history of such a compromise. Respondents and amici do not cite any evidence supporting this version of events, nor could respondents'
The total absence of any suggestion in the legislative history that the Senators had misdescribed the coverage of the Act is itself significant. See Harrison v. PPG Industries, Inc., 446 U.S. 578, 602 (1980) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting) ("In a case where the construction of legislative language . . . makes so sweeping and so relatively unorthodox a change . . . , I think judges as well as detectives may take into consideration the fact that a watchdog did not bark in the night"); Green v. Bock Laundry Machine Co., 490 U.S. 504, 527 (1989) (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment) (when confronted with statutory language that produces an absurd result, it is appropriate "to observe that counsel have not provided, nor have we discovered, a shred of evidence that anyone has ever proposed or assumed such a bizarre disposition"). Absent some response indicating that the Senators mischaracterized the Act, we ought to construe the statute in light of its clear purpose and thereby avoid the absurd results that the majority countenances.
Indeed, the Court's cavalier treatment of the explanations of the statute provided to their colleagues by Senators Rockefeller and Wallop is disrespectful, not only to those Senators, but to the entire Senate as well. For, although the Court does not say so explicitly, it apparently assumes that the Senators were either dissembling or unable to understand the meaning of the bill that they were sponsoring. Neither assumption is tenable. Much more likely is the simple explanation that the Senators quite reasonably thought the term "signatory operator" included successors. This account is certainly consistent with Congress' instructions in the Dictionary Act, 1 U. S. C. § 1, that a reference to a corporation may embrace its successors and assigns even if not expressly mentioned.
The Coal Act defines a "signatory operator" as "a person which is or was a signatory to a coal wage agreement." 26
Three additional considerations support reading the Act to cover direct successors. First, this reading was consistently endorsed by the several Commissioners responsible for the administration of the Act, notwithstanding a change in control of the Executive Branch.
Second, it is consistent with the Court's treatment of successorship issues in other labor cases, in which we have required successors to bargain with a union certified under a predecessor, see Fall River Dyeing & Finishing Corp. v. NLRB, 482 U.S. 27, 41 (1987), to assume liability for reinstatement and backpay as a result of a predecessor's unfair labor practice, see Golden State Bottling Co. v. NLRB, 414 U.S. 168, 181-185 (1973), and to arbitrate disputes as provided in a predecessor's collective-bargaining agreement, see John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Livingston, 376 U.S. 543, 548 (1964).
Finally, we should avoid adopting an interpretation of the statute that recreates the same difficulties that beset the NBCWAs and that Congress explicitly sought to avoid. The immediate consequence of the Court's reading is that 86 retired miners will now be unassigned; therefore, their health care expenses will be borne by the remaining signatory operators and their related persons. Assuming there are other retired miners in the same category, today's decision will result in more "orphaned" miners who will draw from the combined fund. To the extent that the cost for their health benefits will be passed along to the other signatory operators, the Court's holding creates an added incentive for the remaining
In my judgment the holding in this case is the product of a misguided approach to issues of statutory construction. The text of the statute provides us with evidence that is usually sufficient to disclose the intent of the enacting Congress, but that is not always the case. There are occasions when an exclusive focus on text seems to convey an incoherent message, but other reliable evidence clarifies the statute and avoids the apparent incoherence. In such a case—and this is one—we should never permit a narrow focus on text to obscure a commonsense appraisal of that additional evidence.
I respectfully dissent.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filedfor the Bellaire Corp. by Donald B. Ayer, Jonathan C. Rose, and Thomas A. Smock; for R. G. Johnson Co., Inc., by Mary Lou Smith; and for USX Corp. et al. by David J. Laurent.
"(i) a member of the controlled group of corporations (within the meaning of [26 U. S. C. § ]52(a)) which includes such signatory operator;
"(ii) a trade or business which is under common control (as determined under [26 U. S. C. § ]52(b)) with such signatory operator; or
"(iii) any other person who is identified as having a partnership interest or joint venture with a signatory operator in a business within the coal industry, but only if such business employed eligible beneficiaries, except that this clause shall not apply to a person whose only interest is as a limited partner.
"A related person shall also include a successor in interest of any person described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii)."
"[B]ecause of complex corporate structures which are often found in the coal industry, the number of entities made jointly and severally liable for a signatory operator's obligations under the definition of related persons is intentionally very broad.
"In this regard, the term `related person' is defined broadly to include companies related to the signatory operator. The Conference Agreement makes each such related person fully responsible for the signatory operator's obligation to provide benefits under the Act should the signatory no longer be in business, or otherwise fail to fulfill its obligations under the Act. Thus, the statute provides that related persons—meaning (i) those within the controlled group of corporations including the signatory operator, using a 50% common ownership test, (ii) a trade or business under common control with a signatory operator, (iii) one with a partnership interest or joint venture with the signatory operator, or (iv) in specific instances successors to the collective bargaining agreement obligations of a signatory operator—are equally obligated with the signatory operator to pay for continuing health care coverage. " 138 Cong. Rec. 34002 (1992) (emphasis added).
The meaning of Senator Wallop's reference to "specific instances" is not evident, but he surely did not mean "no instances" as the Court seems to assume. See ante, at 457, n. 13. Nor could the phrase "successors to the collective bargaining agreement obligations of a signatory operator" refer to the successors of persons described in clauses (i)—(iii), because members of the same controlled group of corporations, for example, do not assume each other's collective-bargaining agreement obligations. In specific instances, however, direct successors of signatory operators may assume those obligations. See infra, at 467-468.