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Republic Steel Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America

filed: February 2, 1978.

REPUBLIC STEEL CORPORATION, APPELLANT IN NO. 77-1350,
v.
UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, DISTRICT NO. 5, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL NO. 9873, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL NO. 688, GERALD ABBOTT, THEODORE SPAZOK, PETER TRBOVICH, NICK PASKOVICH, AND ROBERT FAMULARO; REPUBLIC STEEL CORPORATION, APPELLANT IN NO. 77-2037, V. UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, DISTRICT NO. 5, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, SUB-DISTRICT NO. 3, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL NO. 9873, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL NO. 688, GERALD ABBOTT, THEODORE SPAZOK, PETER TRBOVICH, NICK PASKOVICH, ROBERT FAMULARO, JOHN DOE, AND RICHARD ROE; INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, APPELLANT IN NO. 77-2038



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Aldisert and Weis, Circuit Judges, and A. Sherman Christensen, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Aldisert

ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

These consolidated appeals ask us to consider the liability of an international union, a district, sub-district, and two locals of that union, as well as individual union officers, for money damages sustained by an employer as the result of allegedly illegal work stoppages by union employees.

Republic Steel Corporation [Republic], which owns and operates coal mines in Washington County, Pennsylvania (the "Clyde Mine") and Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (the "Banning Mine"), sought injunctive relief*fn1 and damages in two separate law suits before different district judges, pursuant to section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185. Republic based its claims for compensatory damages on the loss of business it sustained when local members of the United Mine Workers of America [UMWA] at the Clyde and Banning Mines refused to cross picket lines erected by stranger pickets in August 1975 and January 1976. By answer the unions contended that the work stoppages were caused by wildcat strikes, not called, authorized, or ratified by the unions. The stranger pickets in the January 1976 strike were identified in Republic's complaints as John Doe and Richard Roe, and were later conceded by the union to be members of UMWA Local 6290 who were engaged in a dispute with their employer at the Nemacolin Mine of the Buckeye Coal Company. Buckeye Coal employees, like Republic's production and maintenance employees at the Clyde and Banning Mines, are represented for collective bargaining purposes by the UMWA and its respective district, sub-district and local unions.

The record does not disclose the nature of the disputes the stranger pickets had with their employer. Thus, we do not know whether these disputes were subject to compulsory grievance-arbitration procedures under a collective bargaining agreement. Nor does the record disclose what, if any, action the unions took either to terminate the strikes engaged in by the stranger pickets or to prevent the spread of those strikes in the Clyde and Banning Mines.

In No. 77-1350, summary judgment was entered in favor of all defendants; this judgment is appealed by Republic. In Nos. 77-2037 and 77-2038, summary judgment was entered as to all defendants except the International Union; both Republic and the International Union appeal the judgment to the extent that it is adverse to their respective interests. The district court in the latter case made its order final under Rule 54(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., and certified the following as a controlling question of law under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b):

Whether the International Union, UMWA, is liable*fn2 in damages for failing to use every reasonable effort to stop the spread of illegal wildcat strikes waged by UMWA members against other employers, thereby inducing plaintiff's employees to engage in sympathy strikes.

This complex and important litigation thus requires us to consider and decide issues not reached in the recent sympathy strike decisions of this court and the Supreme Court. In Buffalo Forge Co. v. United Steelworkers, 428 U.S. 397, 49 L. Ed. 2d 1022, 96 S. Ct. 3141 (1976), which was decided while the present actions were pending in the district courts, the Supreme Court determined that a federal court could not enjoin a sympathy strike pending an arbitrator's decision as to whether the strike was forbidden by an express no-strike provision in the collective bargaining contract to which the striking union was a party. Significantly, the parties in Buffalo Forge stipulated that the underlying strike*fn3 was "bona fide, primary and legal", id. at 403, and did not contend that the issue underlying the sympathy strike was "subject to the settlement procedures provided by the contracts between the employer and respondents." Id. at 407-08. Subsequently, this court in United States Steel Corp. v. United Mine Workers [U.S. Steel II], 548 F.2d 67 (3d Cir. 1976), determined that a union cannot be held liable to an employer for money damages in similar circumstances. Noting that it was presented with the same situation as the Buffalo Forge Court, where the strike was not "over any dispute between the Union and the employer that was even remotely subject to the arbitration provisions of the contract," 548 F.2d at 73, in U.S. Steel II we expressly declined to consider whether the rationale of our prior decision in Eazor Express, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 520 F.2d 951 (3d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 424 U.S. 935, 47 L. Ed. 2d 342, 96 S. Ct. 1149 (1976), would permit an employer to recover damages for the failure of a union to take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of an unauthorized and allegedly illegal strike against another employer. 548 F.2d at 74.

The question reserved in U.S. Steel II is squarely before us here. Because we determine that, in a sympathy strike context, an International union may be liable for damages if it did not exercise all reasonable efforts to halt conduct of its members which is proven to be unlawful, we reverse the summary judgment in favor of the International in No. 77-1350, while affirming the judgments of the district courts in all other respects.

I.

In considering the issues presented in this appeal, we are perforce aware of the broader context in which they arise. In United Steelworkers of America v. NLRB, 530 F.2d 266 (3d Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. Dow Chemical Co. v. United Steelworkers of America, 429 U.S. 834, 50 L. Ed. 2d 100, 97 S. Ct. 100 (1976), we summarized the basic tenets of the contemporary national labor policy: an advanced economy which dictates that labor-management relations be as peaceful as possible; the consensual nature of labor-management agreements upon a forum for dispute resolution; the preference for arbitration as a forum for dispute resolution; and a shift in emphasis in labor legislation from the protection of a nascent labor movement to the encouragement of collective bargaining and the development of administrative techniques for the peaceful resolution of industrial disputes. See id. at 275.

These considerations evolved slowly, fueled primarily, if not exclusively, by the growth of America's labor unions. It is particularly appropriate that we consider their evolution in the context of America's coal miners, a group which worked toward these ends by investing tremendous amounts of their energy and resources, and sometimes their lives.

A.

Not until the middle third of this century were our nation's miners lifted from a semi-feudal existence into a position with even a semblance of bargaining power equal to that of the coal operators. Unlike other industries, mining provided a work situs far removed from urban centers. In the "company town", the miners were subjected to the economic, political, and social domination of "the company".*fn4 Their essentials were obtainable only from the company, and their daily life was often subject to 24-hour supervision by para-military police employed by the company.*fn5

Thus, although the call to unionize had been sounded to American miners as early as the mid-nineteenth century,*fn6 for many years management remained supremely endowed with innumerable rights while labor's right to organize (other than in craft unions) was virtually nonexistent. The situation is reflected in the law reports as well as the history books. In Vegelahn v. Guntner, 167 Mass. 92, 44 N.E. 1077 (1896), for example, despite a classic dissent by Justice Holmes, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts declared that placing two pickets at a plant entrance constituted "a private nuisance". And in 1917, in Hitchman Coal & Coke Co. v. Mitchell, 245 U.S. 229, 250, 62 L. Ed. 260, 38 S. Ct. 65 (1917), the Supreme Court afforded judicial sanction to the "yellow dog contract", determining "that the plaintiff [coal operator] was acting within its lawful rights in employing its men only upon terms of continuing nonmembership in the United Mine Workers of America is not open to question." See also International Organization v. Red Jacket Consol. Coal & Coke Co., 18 F.2d 839 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 275 U.S. 536, 72 L. Ed. 413, 48 S. Ct. 31 (1927).*fn7

We note that a common thread running throughout the many years of labor's struggle to unionize was that of violence. For decades, the coal operators violently, and successfully, opposed UMWA organizational efforts from Pennsylvania to Colorado. Families of the miners did not escape "the company's" brutality. Upon the calling of a strike, for example, a favorite operator ploy was to evict all miners and their families from their company houses. Thus, in 1913 the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company evicted families into the freezing temperatures of a Colorado winter, forcing some 9,000 persons to settle in tent colonies set up by the UMWA. The tent colonies were then subjected to machine gun attacks by company detectives in an armored car.*fn8 And the history of Mingo, McDowell, and Logan Counties in West Virginia in the 1920's is an account of virtual civil war.*fn9

B.

It took congressional enactments to lift our nation's coal miners from their marginal existence, to outlaw finally oppressive tactics such as the "yellow dog contract", and to stem the tide of violence between employer and employee. On June 16, 1933, President Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act [NIRA], which contained the famous section 7(a), vesting in employees "the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and [to] be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor . . . ." NIRA, ch. 90, § 7(a), 48 ...


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