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Roberts & Schaefer Co. v. Local 1846

argued: January 21, 1987.

ROBERTS & SCHAEFER COMPANY
v.
LOCAL 1846, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA, D.C. Civil No. 84-1094.

Author: Weis

Before: GIBBONS, Chief Judge, WEIS and HUNTER, Circuit Judges

WEIS, Circuit Judge.

An arbitrator interpreted a collective bargaining agreement to mean that, despite rather clear contractual language, a construction firm was required to use only subcontractors that recognized a particular union. The district court vacated the award, concluding that it did not draw its essence from the agreement. Although we do not disagree with the district court's interpretation of the contract, we will reverse because the record provides some, albeit minimal, support for the arbitrator's decision.

Roberts & Schaefer Company was a party to a national collective bargaining agreement requiring that under certain conditions subcontracted construction work would be performed within the jurisdiction of the United Mine Workers. The dispute here arose when Roberts & Schaefer subcontracted work at a coal mine to a firm which had a collective bargaining agreement with the United Steelworkers of America.

The UMW charged that this subcontract was a breach of its collective bargaining agreement. When Roberts & Schaefer refused to recognize a grievance filed by the UMW, the union obtained a district court order compelling arbitration.

The principal issue before the arbitrator was the meaning and effect of the enabling clause in the National Coal Mine Construction Agreement of 1981, to which Roberts & Schaefer was a signatory. That section provided in pertinent part:

"This agreement covers all work related to the development, expansion or alteration of coal mines . . . and all other such coal-related work that is performed at or on coal lands by the members of the association [of Bituminous Contractors] for coal mine operators which require such construction work to be performed under the jurisdiction of the United Mine Workers of America."

The UMW argued that the contract for the work being performed by Roberts & Schaefer at the mine was of the type contemplated by the National Coal Mine Construction Agreement. Roberts & Schaefer, however, contended that by its terms the Agreement did not apply to the subcontract because Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, the operator, did not "require" the construction to be performed under the jurisdiction of the UMW. In urging that the work was within the scope of the Construction Agreement, the union relied on events occurring during the contract negotiation sessions and on an unwritten understanding of the parties.

The identical enabling clause had been included in the 1978 Construction Agreement, where it was keyed to a provision of the National Bituminous Coal Operators Agreement requiring the mine operators to use contractors who had recognized the UMW. In 1980, the proviso in the Operators Agreement was held to be an illegal union signatory clause. Amax Coal Co. v. NLRB, 614 F.2d 872 (3d Cir. 1980), rev'd on other grounds, 453 U.S. 322, 69 L. Ed. 2d 672, 101 S. Ct. 2789 (1981). The UMW, concerned with the effect of the Amax decision, attempted to change the language of the enabling clause in a variety of ways while negotiating the 1981 Construction Agreement. The Contractors' Association, however, accepted none of the proposed changes.

In testimony before the arbitrator, the Roberts & Schaefer witnesses stated that the contractors preferred not to be under the jurisdiction of the UMW because its labor costs were higher than those of other unions, such as the United Steelworkers. Consequently, during the negotiations the contractors resisted the UMW efforts to make language changes aimed at retaining jurisdiction over all phases of coal mine construction work.

Willard A. Esselstyn, a UMW representative, conceded that he had been unsuccessful in securing changes in the enabling clause wording. He testified that during the bargaining sessions he had expressed the union's concern that "labor unrest" might occur if non-UMW labor were used in coal mine construction. The operators' representative had advised him that they shared similar views and that they were not "looking to buy problems" or "to have trouble." The bargaining representative for the contractors also had said, "we are not looking for any trouble either."

Esselstyn testified, "it was understood by me that if you are going to do construction at a mine site, you are talking about labor unrest if you bring in, say nonunion [non-UMW]." It was his understanding that if a mine operator chose a UMW construction firm, the general contractor would abide by the terms of the Agreement and limit subcontracting to companies also recognizing the UMW.

Roberts & Schaefer witnesses denied that the parties had reached any such understanding. The contractors had relied on the terms of enabling clause as written and had refused to bargain away the ...


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