By PETER HUSSMANN
Whirlpool's request to take additional testimony from the chair of the UAW Local 997's Retiree Council over comments he made to the local newspaper was denied by a federal magistrate judge on Tuesday.
Attorneys for Whirlpool had asked the court to allow them to redepose Larry Shaver in the company's legal fight over its right to reduce the health insurance benefits provided to more than 3,000 retired former Maytag plant workers.
The request was made in connection with a motion by Whirlpool to certify the defendant class in the lawsuit and to designate the UAW as the class counsel for the group. In a court filing in late February, the UAW opposed the designation as class counsel saying, among other things, that it does not have the retirees' conset to represent them.
In his comments to the paper, Shaver indicated he had received many calls from Maytag retirees concerned about the UAW's position in the case. He said he told those people they "lost the whole intent of the message" and that he knew "why they were doing it."
Because of those comments, Whirlpool had asked the court to allow its lawyers to redepose Shaver concerning his comments to the paper, the names of the retirees who spoke to him and the content of their conversations concerning the UAW's representation, conversations Shaver had had with the law firm which represented Maytag retirees in the now-dismissed "Ginter" case and the "apparent lack of candor" by the "Ginter" plaintiffs in stating they had no intention of reopening the suit.
Magistrate Ross Walters ruled that the newspaper article did not indicate Shaver discussed the UAW's strategy with the "Ginter" class counsel so denied the latter two elements of Whirlpool's request.
However, the judge noted, the comments do tend to "contradict" the UAW's arguments in opposing designation as class counsel, but that the matter has been so extensively argued in court filings that Shaver's deposition would only "add marginally" to the record.
"That retirees have contacted Shaver concerned the union is 'casting them aside' does tend to contradict the UAW's contention that it does not have the consent of the retirees to represent them," the judge ruled. "However, that many retirees would look to the UAW to protect their interests in union-negotiated retiree health benefits is hardly suprising.
"Mr Shaver's comments to the paper do not present good cause to reopen discovery."