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SOLAR FUEL CO. v. UMW

August 10, 1972

Solar Fuel Company et al., Plaintiffs
v.
United Mine Workers Of America et al., Defendants


Knox, D. J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX

KNOX, D. J.:

 This case is another in the series of actions against the United Mine Workers of America as the result of the inclusion in the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement by amendment effective December 1, 1958, of a so-called protective wage clause, whereby the union agreed not to make any agreement or understanding with any signatory as to wages, hours or other conditions of work except on the basis and the terms of the National Agreement. The United States Supreme Court has on several occasions considered this clause and indicated that under the circumstances this may involve a violation of the antitrust laws. See United Mine Workers of America v. Pennington, 381 U.S. 657, 14 L. Ed. 2d 626, 85 S. Ct. 1585 (1965); Ramsey v. United Mine Workers of America, 401 U.S. 302, 28 L. Ed. 2d 64, 91 S. Ct. 658 (1971). See also South-East Coal Co. v. Consolidation Coal Co., 434 F.2d 767 (6th Cir. 1970) cert. den. 402 U.S. 983, 29 L. Ed. 2d 149, 91 S. Ct. 1662.

 In the instant case, plaintiff Solar Fuel Company through its membership in Somerset County Coal Operators Association was originally a signatory to the 1958 Agreement containing this protective wage clause. It later (1961-2) withdrew from membership in the association and beginning July 17, 1967, and extending through until the end of the year 1968 was involved in a bitter and violent dispute with the U.M.W. District No. 2 which included mines in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. It was stipulated that District No. 2 was an administrative arm of the international union of the U.M.W. of America.

 The record is replete with evidence of extreme violence even to the extent on some occasions endangering life. Mine vehicles were burned and run off cliffs. Mine buildings and equipment were burned and otherwise destroyed and damaged. Loads of coal were dumped on a road giving access to one of the mines. The roads were strewn with large nails inserted through bottle caps so as to puncture the tires of any vehicles passing, explosives were thrown and some people were set upon by mobs of 50 or 100 people and beaten and kicked. An injunction issued by the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County limiting the number of pickets in an attempt to stop the violence was ignored and at times pickets in the number of 800 or 1,000 assembled on the roads leading to the mines, the group being so great as to overwhelm the State Police who came to the assistance of the sheriff in attempting to enforce the injunction. The judge issuing the injunction was defied in his courtroom by one of the officers of the international union who told him that the next day the pickets would be out in even greater numbers. There is evidence in the record from which the jury could infer as it did that these acts were fomented, encouraged, condoned or ratified by officers and representatives of both District No. 2 and of the International Union who did nothing to control the actions of the mobs or to discipline the union members involved although the evidence shows these officials and representatives were present on the picket line. The evidence further shows that Mr. Jock Yablonski, since murdered, throughout the course of negotiations insisted that the plaintiff coal company had to accede and submit to the terms of the protective wage clause and pay the royalties due per ton of coal into the Welfare and Retirement Fund of the Union and that the Union insisted that it was without power to negotiate a contract on any other terms. This, of course, was denied by the Union witnesses and thus presented a question for the jury which was submitted to them and by their verdict have found that plaintiff's version was true.

 Plaintiff brought suit against the union in this court upon three causes of action.

 (1) Unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act,

 (2) Violation of the antitrust laws, particularly Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act (15 U.S.C. ยง 1), and

 (3) A pendent state cause of action under Pennsylvania State law for destruction of real estate and personal property and interference with the business of the plaintiff's company. Paul Schrekengost, company manager, also joined in this suit claiming damages under the antitrust laws and for destruction and injury to his automobile and other personal property. At the time of trial the court instructed the jury that plaintiffs had made out no cause of action based upon unfair labor practices (N.T. 1053) but submitted the other two causes of action to the jury in the form of a special verdict containing special interrogatories. The jury's answers were as follows, (N.T. 1121):

 
"1. Do you find that the defendants, United Mine Workers and United Mine Workers District No. 2, were parties to an agreement in restraint of trade in violation of the antitrust laws under the previous instructions of the court? Answer: Yes.
 
"2. If and only if your answer to the above question is yes, what damages do you find were sustained by the plaintiff which were the proximate result of such violation of the antitrust laws? Solar Fuel Company: $125,000. Paul Schrekengost: Zero.
 
"3. Do you find the plaintiffs are entitled to recover from the defendants for wrongful acts in connection with the conduct of this strike? Answer: Yes.
 
"4. If your answer is yes, in what amount do you find plaintiffs are entitled to recover for these acts? Solar Fuel Company: $30,000. Paul Schrekengost: $2,000.

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