Ravinia Shorted Teamster Pension Fund By Over $440,000: Lawsuit

Jonah Meadows

HIGHLAND PARK, IL — The Ravinia Festival Association faces a federal lawsuit from a representative of the Teamsters pension fund, who alleges the Highland Park-based arts nonprofit failed to make required payments after withdrawing from the fund 18 months ago.

Charles Whobrey, a trustee for the Central States Pension Fund, claims Ravinia Festival owes the fund a withdrawal liability totaling $441,880. His lawsuit also demands at least $88,000 in interest, plus legal fees.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Chicago, Anthony Napoli, an attorney for the fund said Ravinia was bound by a collective bargaining agreement with an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that required the nonprofit to contribute to the pension fund on behalf of some of its employees.

According to the fund, Ravinia's obligation to contribute to the fund ended on June 30, 2019, which qualified as a "complete withdrawal." That meant Ravinia was obligated to pay a liability, which it never did, the lawsuit alleges.

Fund representatives sent the Ravinia Festival Association a notice and demand for payment in August 2020 and a past due notice in September 2020, according to the suit. It said the nonprofit did not make the payment and did not initiate arbitration.

The Central States Pension Fund was established in 1955 to provide pension benefits to truckers in the Teamsters union. It currently has more than 1,000 contributing businesses representing about 50,000 workers, according to its website.

Every day, the pension fund pays out $5.7 million more in benefits than it receives in contributions, it said, and by 2025 it will become insolvent and forced to reduced benefits without congressional intervention.

A Ravinia Festival spokesperson said no one at the organization was yet familiar with the suit. An attorney for the pension fund did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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This article originally appeared on the Highland Park Patch