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United Mine Workers of America v. Barnes & Tucker Co.

filed: August 22, 1977.

UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, DISTRICT NO. 2, AND UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL NO. 1269, APPELLANTS,
v.
BARNES & TUCKER COMPANY



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA D.C. Civil No. 75-1257.

Seitz, Chief Judge, Rosenn, Circuit Judge, and Joseph S. Lord, III, Chief Judge.*fn* Seitz, Chief Judge, concurring.

Author: Rosenn

ROSENN, Circuit Judge

Appellant United Mine Workers ("the Union") initiated this action under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. ยง 185 (1970), to obtain specific enforcement of certain grievance settlements negotiated by the Union with Barnes & Tucker Co. ("the employer"). The district court dismissed the action on the ground that the matters raised by the Union were exclusively within the grievance procedures established by the parties' collective bargaining agreements and that the court therefore had no equitable power to deal with them. On this appeal, we must decide whether general assurances made by the employer as a part of grievance settlements are judicially enforceable. We conclude that under the circumstances of this case they are not, and affirm the district court's order dismissing the action.

I.

District 2 and Local 1269 of the United Mine Workers of America represent approximately 1250 employees working at four Barnes & Tucker Coal Mines in Western Pennsylvania. From November 12, 1971, through November 12, 1974, the Union and the employer were subject to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1971, which governed the wages, hours, working conditions, and other terms and conditions of employment of Barnes & Tucker's production and maintenance employees. The Union and the employer are currently subject to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1974, which became effective on December 6, 1974, and which expires on December 6, 1977.

Both the 1971 and 1974 Agreements provide five-step grievance-arbitration procedures which culminate in final and binding arbitration. By the express terms of the Agreements, settlements reached at any step are final and binding on both parties. The grievance-arbitration procedures apply to disputes over the interpretation of the Agreements, to differences about matters not specifically mentioned in the Agreements, and to "local trouble of any kind." In addition, the Agreements prescribe separate grievance-arbitration procedures for health and safety disputes.

The 1971 and 1974 Agreements specifically prohibit the use of supervisory personnel to perform bargaining unit work, except in emergencies and except as such work is necessary for training employees. Both Agreements require the parties to observe pertinent state and federal safety laws and regulations. The 1974 Agreement restricts the use of new, inexperienced employees, defined as employees "with less than ninety (90) days prior underground mining experience."

Pursuant to the provisions of the Agreements, Local 1269 filed a series of grievances which were processed through various steps of the applicable procedures. The grievances relevant to this case fell into three categories: first, complaints regarding supervisors doing bargaining unit work; second, complaints alleging violations by the employer of state and federal regulations governing the movement of equipment in underground mines; and third, complaints relating to the assignment of new, inexperienced workers to jobs as operators and helpers at the mine face. It was to enforce a series of promises allegedly made by the employer as a part of the settlement of these grievances that the Union brought this suit.

The evidence adduced at a hearing before the district court showed that the vast majority of grievances concerned supervisors performing bargaining unit work; some of the grievances, rather than dealing with specific instances of supervisors performing classified work, raised the problem generally. The Union offered testimony that in the course of negotiating settlements of these grievances the employer repeatedly made promises, some in writing and made a part of the record, that supervisors would not perform classified work. Similarly, the Union offered testimony that in the settlement of grievances protesting violations of safety guidelines, the employer repeatedly made general written assurances that it would comply with federal and state safety laws and regulations. And finally, the Union introduced into evidence a written agreement, executed in settlement of a particular grievance, by which the employer promised that employees with less than ninety days' underground experience would not be assigned as helpers "on continuous miners or roof bolting machines." Urging that these three types of promises were made as part of settlements which, by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, were final and binding, and contending that Barnes & Tucker had failed to adhere to its promises, the Union requested the district court to enter a mandatory injunction compelling compliance with the settlements.

The district court found that the evidence of supervisors doing classified work failed to establish a company policy of violating the contractual prohibition; on the contrary, the court noted, Barnes & Tucker had taken substantial affirmative action to reduce, if not eliminate, instances of supervisors performing bargaining unit work. The court found that the employer had abided by its duty to consider and arbitrate all grievances related to the performance of classified work by supervisory personnel. In addition, the court stated, the employer had not attempted to avoid its obligation to consider and arbitrate the grievances regarding violations of safety regulations and use of inexperienced personnel. The court concluded that the matters raised by the Union's complaint and the evidence produced at the hearing were exclusively within the grievance procedure established by the collective bargaining agreement, and that the court therefore had no equitable powers to deal with them.

II.

The Union argues that the grievance settlements in this case - specifically, the general promises contained therein - are entitled to the same enforcement as would be granted an arbitration award. The employer suggests, in response, that only arbitration awards, and not settlement agreements, are enforceable. We agree with the Union that where a collective bargaining agreement designates settlement agreements as being final and binding, the fact that a settled grievance does not proceed to arbitration does not preclude judicial enforcement of the settlement agreement.

The well established federal policy favoring the arbitration of labor disputes, Gateway Coal Co. v. UMW, 414 U.S. 368, 377, 38 L. Ed. 2d 583, 94 S. Ct. 629 (1974), derives from section 203(d) of the Labor ...


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