325 U.S. 161 (1945), 721, Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Local No. 6167,

Docket Nº:No. 721
Citation:325 U.S. 161, 65 S.Ct. 1063, 89 L.Ed. 1534
Party Name:Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Local No. 6167,
Case Date:May 07, 1945
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 161

325 U.S. 161 (1945)

65 S.Ct. 1063, 89 L.Ed. 1534

Jewell Ridge Coal Corp.


Local No. 6167,

No. 721

United States Supreme Court

May 7, 1945

United Mineworkers of America

Argued March 9, 1945




1. Time spent by miners in traveling underground between the portal and the working face of bituminous coal mines held required by § 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to be included in the work week, and to be compensated accordingly. Following Tennessee Coal Co. v. Muscoda Local, 321 U.S. 590. Pp. 163, 166.

2. The requirement of § 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act that time spent by miners in traveling underground between the portal and the working face of bituminous coal mines be included in the work week and compensated accordingly cannot be frustrated by any contrary custom or contract. P. 167.

3. The legislative history of the Fair Labor Standards Act does not require a conclusion different from that here reached. P. 168.

4. A statement of the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division favoring the computation of working time in the bituminous coal industry on a "face to face" basis, being legally untenable, is not entitled to the weight usually accorded the Administrator's rulings, interpretations, and opinions. P. 169.

145 F.2d 10 affirmed.

Page 162

Certiorari, 323 U.S. 707, to review the reversal of a judgment for the plaintiff (petitioner here) in a declaratory judgment action seeking a construction of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 53 F.Supp. 935.

MURPHY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Tennessee Coal Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, this Court held that underground travel in iron ore mines constituted work, and hence was included in the compensable work week within the meaning of Section 7(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 1060, 1063, 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). The sole issue in this case is whether any different result must be reached as regards underground travel in bituminous coal mines.

[65 S.Ct. 1065] The petitioner, Jewell Ridge Coal Corporation, owns two bituminous coal mines in Virginia. It instituted this declaratory judgment action against the respondent unions and certain of their officials, representing all of petitioner's underground mine workers. The respondents filed an answer and a counterclaim. By stipulation,

Page 163

the parties sought to determine

what constitutes the working time which makes up the work week of plaintiff's underground employees within the meaning of Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and what amounts, if any, are due and unpaid to such employees under said Section, the determination of such amounts, if any, to be later referred to a special master.

This issue relates only to the work performed by petitioner's underground miners between April 1, 1943, and June 20, 1943.

After hearing evidence and argument, the District Court concluded that petitioner had correctly computed the work week on a "face to face" basis, and that the Act did not require that the work week include

either time spent by such employees outside the portal of the mines before entering therein or time spent in traveling from the portals to their usual places of work and return.

53 F.Supp. 935, 952. Only the issue as to travel time is involved here. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals felt that the Tennessee Coal case, which was decided by this Court subsequent to the entry of the District Court's judgment in this proceeding, could not be distinguished in principle, and accordingly reversed the judgment on that basis. 145 F.2d 10.

We agree with the court below that there is no substantial factual or legal difference between this and the Tennessee Coal case, and that underground travel in bituminous coal mines, as well as in iron ore mines, is included within the compensable work week contemplated by Section 7(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Factually, underground travel between the portals and working faces of petitioner's two bituminous coal mines bears all the indicia of work. While the District Court here found "no such painful and burdensome conditions as those described in the iron ore mines," 53 F.Supp. at 949, all three of the essential elements of work as set forth

Page 164

in the Tennessee Coal case, supra, 321 U.S. at 598, are present in this instance:

1. Physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not). After arriving at petitioner's mines by foot or vehicle, the miners first obtain their lamps from the lamp house near the main portal. They then enter the man trips at the portal, and are transported down to the underground man trip stations -- a journey varying in distance from 4,250 feet to 25,460 feet. Each man trip is composed of a train of small empty coal cars drawn by an electric motor or locomotive. From seven to eight men sit on a bench or on the floor of each car, which is only a few feet high. The cars apparently are not overcrowded. If the roof of the passageway is sufficiently high, the men are able to sit upright as they ride. But they must be on constant guard for the frequent low ceilings which force them to bend over to avoid striking their heads. And the dangers of falling slate and falling ceilings are ever present.

The District Court found that, while this journey is "definitely not luxurious," it is "neither painful nor unduly uncomfortable, and is less hazardous than other phases of mining operations." In this connection, it should be noted that the record shows that six persons suffered compensable injuries, involving absence from work for seven days or more, while riding on petitioner's man trips from January 1, 1939, to October 31, 1943. There is also evidence of two deaths and numerous minor injuries to the miners.

After arriving at the man trip stations, the miners check in at a nearby check-in board, a practice that differs inconsequentially from the procedure followed by the miners in the Tennessee Coal case of checking in at a tally house on the surface. They then collect their tools, equipment, explosives, etc., and carry them on foot to the working places, usually some 500 to 1,500 feet away. This requires that they proceed through dark and dangerous

Page 165

tunnels, often so low as to force them to crouch over while carrying their burdens. Moreover, they must keep constant vigil against live electric wires, falling rocks, and obstacles under foot. At the end of each shift, the miners make their return journey to the man trip stations, deposit [65 S.Ct. 1066] their tools and equipment, and ascend to the portal via the man trips.

In addition, approximately 72 men at petitioner's Jewell Ridge mine enter the mine at places other than the main portal, and either catch the man trips at some man trip station inside the mine or walk all the way to their places of work. These undisputed facts compel the conclusion that the underground travel in petitioner's mines involves physical and mental exertion. That it may not be so burdensome or disagreeable as some of the aspects of the travel described in the Tennessee Coal case is not of controlling significance in this respect.

2. Exertion controlled or required by the employer. It is obvious that the underground travel is both controlled and required by petitioner. Both the man trip transportation and travel by foot occur solely on petitioner's property, and occur only as and when required by petitioner. Petitioner organizes, operates, and supervises all aspects of the man trips. Definite schedules are arranged and maintained by petitioner. A company foreman rides on each man trip, and occasionally gives work instructions during the journey. He also compels compliance with the numerous safety rules for man trips adopted by petitioner in compliance with state law. Layoff or discharge may result from a miner's continued failure to obey these rules.

3. Exertion pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business. It is too obvious to require extended discussion that here, as in the Tennessee Coal case, the underground travel is undertaken

Page 166

necessarily and primarily for the benefit of petitioner and its coal mining operations. The miners do not engage in this travel for their own pleasure or convenience. It occurs only because it is a necessary prerequisite to the extraction of coal from the mines, which is the prime purpose of petitioner's business. Without such travel, the coal could not be mined.

Thus, the three basic elements of work of a type necessarily included within the work week as contemplated by the Act are plainly evident from these facts. Those who are forced to travel in underground mines in order to earn their livelihood are unlike the ordinary traveler or the ordinary workman on his way to work. They must journey beneath the crust of the earth, far removed from the fresh and open air and from the beneficial rays of the sun. A heavy toll is exacted from those whose lot it is to ride and walk and mine beneath the surface. From the moment they enter the portal until they leave, they are subjected to constant hazards and dangers; they are left begrimed and exhausted by their continuous physical and mental exertion.

To conclude that such subterraneous travel is not work is to ignore reality completely. We therefore are compelled to hold that the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the District Court's findings of fact and from other undisputed evidence is that the underground travel in petitioner's two mines is work, and that the time spent in such travel should be included within the work week for purposes of Section 7(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The other propositions advanced by petitioner are also answered by the principles of the Tennessee Coal case. Thus, petitioner places heavy reliance upon...

To continue reading