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UMW INTL. UNION v. G.M.&W. COAL CO.

November 12, 1985

UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA INTERNATIONAL UNION; UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, DISTRICT 2; UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA LOCAL 1742; FRANK STEELE and STANLEY NIEMIEC, Plaintiffs,
v.
G.M.&W. COAL COMPANY; INTERCARBON COAL COMPANY; JENNERSTOWN MINING, INC.; HARDHAT MINING, INC.; LION MINING COMPANY; PANTHER COAL SALES; GROVE EQUIPMENT COMPANY, and THE UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA 1974 BENEFIT TRUST, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ZIEGLER

ZIEGLER, District Judge

 The United Mine Workers of America, its international, district and local offices, and a class of retired union miners bring an action against several coal mining concerns and the union's pension and benefit trust, following the sale of a coal mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The complaint, seeking monetary damages and injunctive and declaratory relief, alleges that defendants have violated terms of a collective bargaining agreement and that retirement benefits will be wrongfully terminated. Jurisdiction is based on Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185; Section 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1132, and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202.

 All defendants have filed motions to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction or failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. F.R.C.P. 12(b). After reviewing the allegations of the complaint and the applicable statutory and case law, we shall grant each and every motion to dismiss the complaint.

 I. History of Case

 Based on the complaint, whose every averment must be considered as true on a motion to dismiss, plaintiff union and defendant G.M.&W. Coal Company are parties to a collective bargaining agreement known as the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1981 (NBCWA). The agreement began on June 7, 1981, and expired on September 30, 1984, and covered defendant's Grove No. 1 Mine operation. Article I of the NBCWA obligated each signatory coal mine operator to bind any purchaser of its mine operation to the same terms of the contract. Article I stated, in pertinent part:

 
In consideration of the Union's execution of this Agreement, each Employer promises that its operations covered by this Agreement shall not be sold, conveyed, or otherwise transferred or assigned to any successor without first securing the agreement of the successor to assume the Employer's obligations under this agreement.

 The NBCWA further stated, in Article XXIX, that the terms and conditions of the contract, with the exception of certain health and life insurance benefits, would not continue past the termination of the agreement. Exhibit "A" to Complaint.

 In June 1985, approximately nine months after the contract termination, but while negotiations for a new agreement were taking place, G.M.&W. sold its Grove No. 1 Mine and its leases and equipment to defendants Lion, Panther and Grove. The agreement of sale did not require the new owners to abide by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, which had expired the previous year.

 The new owners have not assumed G.M.&W.'s obligations under the NBCWA, including the obligation to recognize the UMWA as the exclusive bargaining representative of its employees; the obligation to refrain from unilaterally altering the terms and conditions of employment during negotiations for a new agreement; the obligation to respect the seniority and other job rights of its employees; and the obligation to provide health and other non-pension retirement benefits.

 The complaint states four counts. First, plaintiffs allege that defendants breached Article I of the NBCWA. Because this count alleges violation of a collective bargaining agreement between an employer and an employee union, subject matter jurisdiction is asserted under Section 301 of the LMRA. Second, plaintiffs claim that defendants tortiously interfered with lawful, enforceable obligations under the NBCWA. Jurisdiction is asserted under Section 301. Third, plaintiffs claim that defendant purchasers of Grove No. 1 Mine are subject to an equitable servitude, enforcing the terms of the NBCWA. Again, jurisdiction is based on Section 301. Finally, plaintiffs bring a pendent state law claim based on tortious interference with lawful, enforceable obligations under the NBCWA.

 II. Jurisdiction under Section 301

 In order for federal courts to have subject matter jurisdiction, plaintiff's complaint must show that the case arises under federal law. New Jersey State AFL-CIO v. State of New Jersey, 747 F.2d 891 (3d Cir. 1984). A claim arises under federal law only if "a right or immunity created by the Constitution or laws of the United States [is] an element, and an essential one, of the plaintiff's cause of action." Franchise Tax Board v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420, 103 S. Ct. 2841 (1983). Because federal jurisdiction is limited to causes of action arising under the Constitution or to those actions permitted by federal law, we must look for a specific grant of jurisdiction at the outset of every federal case.

 
Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having ...

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