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Pension dispute threatens longtime Port Huron business

Port Huron — A Port Huron business that has been around for 70 years said it expects to close due to a pension dispute with a union.

Port Huron Building Supply is being sued for more than $2 million in federal court in Illinois over its alleged failure to contribute enough money to the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.

An attorney for the company, Gary Fletcher, tells the Times Herald of Port Huron ( ) that the litigation is forcing Port Huron Building Supply to close by the end of March. Signs say, “Everything must be sold!”

A judge ruled Tuesday in favor of the pension fund on the issue of liability, but it’s unclear how much money will ultimately be paid, said Tom Nyhan, the fund’s executive director.

“It’s a sad story. We don’t like to see that happen,” he said of the closing. “We ourselves are in financial difficulty.”

Company president Michael Lauth says the business has 14 employees, down from 34 in 2005. Sales declined as home construction dried up. Port Huron Building Supply sells concrete, lumber and hardware. Workers are represented by Teamsters Local 337.

Lauth’s father, Harold, opened the doors in 1946. Michael Lauth said the company has never missed a monthly pension payment.

According to the contract with the Teamsters union, a company can be fined if it has a 70 percent drop in its pension contribution — even if the drop is due to loss of employees. It’s considered a partial withdrawal from the pension fund.