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GATEWAY COAL CO. v. INTERNATIONAL UNION

April 15, 1994

GATEWAY COAL COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA; DISTRICT 4, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA; and LOCAL 6330, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; D. BROOKS SMITH

 SMITH, District J.

 I. Introduction

 Plaintiff Gateway Coal Company ("Gateway") brought this action pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, for damages allegedly sustained as a result of the defendants' (collectively, "the Unions") participation in, or authorization of, work stoppages in violation of a collective bargaining agreement at Gateway coal mines during the 1989 United Mine Workers of America ("UMWA") strike against the Pittston Coal Company. This matter is currently before the Court on defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 28) and Motion to Strike Damage Claim (Docket No. 39).

 The Unions' motions contest both liability and damages. As to liability, the Unions contend that Gateway has not produced any evidence that the UMWA International Union, District 4 or Local 6330 authorized, sanctioned, or even participated in the picketing and work stoppages which occurred at Gateway mining facilities in the summer of 1989. With respect to damages, the Unions argue that Gateway has not adduced sufficient evidence to prove damages with reasonable certainty.

 Gateway responds that the evidence and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom support its allegation that the work stoppages and pickets at Gateway mining facilities were part of a broader pattern of strikes instigated and ratified by the Unions. With respect to damages, plaintiff argues that defendants ignore Gateway's claims for fixed costs that would not have been incurred but for the work stoppage, and for variable costs that were allegedly higher when actually incurred than they would have been if incurred during June and July of 1989, the period during which work was stopped due to strikes.

 II. Discussion

 A. Summary Judgment

 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) requires the entry of summary judgment ". . . if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." "The requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986)(emphasis in original). An issue of fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Equimark Commercial Finance Co. v. C.I.T. Financial Services Corp., 812 F.2d 141, 144 (3d Cir. 1987). The presence or absence of any plausible motive to engage in conduct is relevant to whether a genuine issue of fact exists within the meaning of Rule 56(e). Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 597, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986).

 Once the moving party has satisfied its burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party is required to go beyond the pleadings by way of affidavits, depositions, and answers to interrogatories in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). When Rule 56(e) shifts the burden of proof to the non-moving party, that party must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case which it bears the burden of proving at trial. Equimark, supra at 144.

 B. Liability/Agency

 It is well settled that "Congress limited the responsibility of unions for strikes in breach of contract to cases when the union may be found responsible according to the common-law rule of agency." Carbon Fuel Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, 444 U.S. 212, 216, 62 L. Ed. 2d 394, 100 S. Ct. 410 (1979). Carbon Fuel effectively overruled the law of this circuit established by Eazor Express, Inc. v. Int'l Bro. of Teamsters, 520 F.2d 951 (3d Cir. 1975), cert. denied 424 U.S. 935, 96 S. Ct. 1149, 47 L. Ed. 2d 342 (1976), reh'g denied 425 U.S. 908, 96 S. Ct. 1502, 47 L. Ed. 2d 758 (1976), that a collective bargaining no strike provision implied an obligation on the union's part to use every reasonable means to stop an unauthorized strike. Defendants argue that, subsequent to Carbon Fuel, the only way Gateway can establish their liability under common law agency principles is to adduce direct evidence that the International, District or Local Unions were "behind" the strikes and pickets at Gateway mining sites during June and July 1989. Defendants contend that because Gateway has not identified any picketers as UMWA members, has not procured admissions from Union representatives to the effect that the Unions ratified the strikers' actions, and has not been able to discover a recorded manifestation of authorization by the Unions, the company cannot establish liability. Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment 5-9.

 However, Carbon Fuel does not preclude plaintiff from attempting to prove common law agency by means of circumstantial evidence. In Carbon Fuel, the Court simply held that the international union could not be held liable for damages resulting from "strikes not authorized, participated in, or ratified by" it, on the ground that it did not use "all reasonable means" available to it to prevent or quash the strike. Carbon Fuel, 444 U.S. at 216-218. The Court determined that the "all reasonable means" or "best efforts" theory of liability was not codified in Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, because it added an implied duty on the part of unions, in addition to the principle of agency required by Section 301(e), *fn1" stating: "In the face of Congress' [codification of the agency relationship requirement], it would be anomalous to hold that an international is nonetheless liable for its failure to take certain steps in response to actions of the local." Id. at 217-18. Casting aside the "all reasonable means" theory of liability, the Carbon Fuel Court reiterated the necessity of establishing agency as a predicate for union liability under Section 301.

 The parties disagree on what theories of union liability remain in the wake of Carbon Fuel. Gateway suggests that it may establish the Unions' liability for the work stoppage either by: (1) direct evidence that the Unions "instigated, supported, ratified, or encouraged the activity complained of," Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment at 54 (quoting Feather v. United Mine Workers of America, 903 F.2d 961 (3d Cir. 1990); or (2) invoking the "mass action theory," pursuant to which unions may be held liable when all or most union members simultaneously engage in an illegal work stoppage. Defendants agree that direct evidence of authorization would be sufficient to establish ...


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