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USW v. NORTH STAR STEEL CO.

April 9, 1992

UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO-CLC, Plaintiff
v.
NORTH STAR STEEL COMPANY, INC., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MALCOLM MUIR

 April 9, 1992

 THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

 The above-captioned matter was initiated by a complaint filed on September 9, 1991. In that complaint the Plaintiff United Steelworkers of America asserts that Defendant North Star Steel Company violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988, 29 U.S.C. § 2101 et seq., as a result of North Star Steel Company's failure to give at least 60 days advance notice prior to laying off a substantial portion of its employees on or about February 25, 1991.

 On February 24, 1992, the United Steelworkers of America filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure accompanied by a statement of material facts pursuant to Local Rule 401.4, supporting affidavits, and a memorandum of law in support of the motion. On March 24, 1992, North Star Steel Company filed its response. In that response North Star Steel Company concedes that its actions constitute a "technical" violation subjecting it to liability under § 2102(a) of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988. However, in that document North Star Steel Company argues that it is entitled to a reduction in the amount of damages to be awarded because its actions were taken in good faith and were not "callous." The United Steelworkers of America filed its reply brief on April 7, 1992, thereby making the matter ripe for disposition.

 The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 states that

 
If an employer which has violated this chapter proves to the satisfaction of the court that the act or omission that violated this chapter was in good faith and that the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that the act or omission was not a violation of this chapter, the Court may, in its discretion, reduce the amount of liability or penalty provided for in this section.

 29 U.S.C. § 2104(a)(4). The United Steelworkers of America argues that North Star Steel Company is not entitled to any reduction pursuant to that section. In order to resolve the issue of whether North Star Steel Company is entitled to any reduction in the amount of liability or penalty, we review the circumstances of the plant closing.

 There is no genuine issue of material fact and thus the United Steelworkers of America is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The only remaining issue in this case is whether North Star Steel Company is entitled to a reduction in the amount of liability or penalty.

 North Star Steel Company, Inc., operates a plant in Milton, Pennsylvania, which produces hot rolled steel bars and other steel products and employed over 280 individuals. The United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC, is the exclusive bargaining representative for approximately 250 production and maintenance employees of the North Star Steel Company who were employed at the Milton plant.

 On February 25, 1991, North Star Steel Company ceased production and laid off approximately 270 employees which constituted almost its entire work force. The United Steelworkers of America did not receive any prior notice of the company's intention to shut down or lay off the employees. The Union first learned of the company's action on the date that it occurred. The Union has never received a notice pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 with respect to the company's action taken on February 25, 1991, or any explanation of the company's failure to provide such notice.

 North Star Steel Company has not been in operation since the date it laid off its employees. The lay-off which occurred on that date has continued for more than six months and the vast majority of the employees laid off on that date have not returned to work.

 North Star Steel Company's response to Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment states that the plant closing was the result of two factors. Those factors are explained in the affidavit of John F. Smythe, the Vice-President for Industrial Relations for North Star Steel Company, which was submitted with North Star Steel Company's response to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

 In his affidavit Mr. Smythe explains that the decision to cease production at North Star Steel Company's ...


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