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Connors v. Consolidation Coal Co.

filed: January 24, 1989.

JOSEPH P. CONNORS, SR., DONALD E. PIERCE, JR., WILLIAM MILLER, WILLIAM B. JORDAN, AND PAUL R. DEAN, AS TRUSTEES OF THE UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA 1950 PENSION TRUST, 1950 BENEFIT PLAN AND TRUST, 1974 PENSION TRUST, AND THE 1974 BENEFIT PAN AND TRUST, APPELLANTS IN NO. 88-3217
v.
CONSOLIDATION COAL COMPANY, CONSOLIDATION COAL COMPANY, A CORPORATION, APPELLANT IN NO. 88-3183



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil Action No. 86-2115.

Gibbons, Chief Judge, and Scirica, Circuit Judges and Farnan, District Judge*fn*

Author: Scirica

Opinion OF THE COURT

SCIRICA, Circuit Judge.

These are cross-appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment. Plaintiffs, trustees of the United Mine Workers of America Pension Plans and Trusts, ("Trustees") brought suit under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185 (1982) and the Employment Retirement Income Securities Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e) (1982), alleging that the defendant, Consolidation Coal Company ("Consol"), underpaid employee benefit trust funds for certain hours worked by Consol employees in contravention of the National Bituminous Wage Agreements of 1978, 1981 and 1984. Consol appeals the decision requiring it to make contributions to the employee benefit trust funds for "worked lunch hours." The Trustees appeal the decision relieving Consol from making contributions for "grievance hours" and "physical challenge hours." The Trustees also appeal the district court's decision to apply the three-year statute of limitations set forth in Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 260.9a(g) (Purdon Supp. 1988). We will affirm the judgment of the district court on all issues.

I.

The Bituminous Coal Operators Association ("BCOA"), a multi-employer bargaining group of which Consol is a member, and the United Mine Workers of America ("UMWA") are signatories to successive wage agreements which require a signatory operator to make contributions on behalf of its classified employees to various employee benefit trust funds. Plaintiffs are trustees of four of these employee benefit trust funds*fn1 that provide pensions and health benefits to miners.

Article XX(d)(1) of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1984*fn2 ("the wage agreement") requires employers to contribute to the trust funds an amount "based on cents per hour worked by each of the Employer's Employees who perform classified work under this Agreement." App. at 98. Article XX(d)(vii) of the wage agreement further provides that

[h]ours of work for purposes of Employer contributions to the plans and trusts described in this Article shall include all hours worked, or fractions thereof, by Employees in a classified job covered by this Agreement. Hours actually worked for which a premium pay of any type is provided shall be treated for purposes of Employer contributions to the Trusts as though worked on a straight-time basis. Reporting for hours not actually worked shall not be included for the purpose of making Employer contributions to the Trust.

App. at 99. Moreover, Article IV(b)(1) of the wage agreement defines a work day as follows:

For all inside Employees a work day of eight (8) hours from portal-to-portal, which means collar-to-collar or bank-to-bank, is established including a staggered thirty (30) minutes for lunch, and without any intermission or suspension of operation throughout the day. For inside day workers these eight (8) hours per day shall be paid for at straight time rate. Overtime beyond eight (8) hours per day and forty (40) hours per week shall be paid for at time and one-half .

App. at 88.

To ensure accurate reporting of hours credited to employees for contribution to the trust funds, the United Mine Workers issued an instruction booklet to signatory employers as a guide. Entitled "Instructions for Reporting Hours," the booklet instructs employers on how to fill in the reporting form, and divides reported hours into four categories. The first category includes hours for which contribution is required and covers all hours worked (and fractions thereof) and shift time paid for, including lunch hours and time spent traveling portal-to-portal. The remaining categories include those hours paid for by the employer but during which the employee performs no work (such as vacation, holiday, jury duty, bereavement, illness, and reporting pay), those hours not paid for by the employer (such as sickness and accident hours), and contractual union committee hours.

In 1983, the Trustees conducted an audit of Consol's payroll for the periods between March 27, 1978 and March 26, 1981 and between June 7, 1981 and December 31, 1982. The audit resulted in a finding that Consol had not made contributions to the trust funds for worked lunch hours, grievance hours, and physical challenge hours.*fn3 On June 19, 1986, the Trustees commenced this action to enjoin Consol from violating the terms of the wage agreements by failing to contribute to the trust funds for worked lunch hours, ...


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