Central Appalachian Coal Co. v. UNITED MINE WKRS. OF AM.

Decision Date10 May 1974
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 73-195-CH.
Citation376 F. Supp. 914
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia



Forrest H. Roles, Jackson, Kelly, Holt & O'Farrell, Charleston, W. Va., for plaintiffs.

M. E. Boiarsky, Charleston, W. Va., for United Mine Workers of America.

Bruce Boyens, Charleston, W. Va., for Locals.


MERHIGE, District Judge.

This is essentially a breach of contract action brought pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The plaintiffs include the Appalachian Power Company (Appalachian Power), the Central Appalachian Coal Company (Central Appalachian), the Southern Appalachian Coal Company (Southern Appalachian) and the Central Coal Company (Central). The defendants include the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), District 17 of the UMW (District 17), and Local Unions Nos. 9051, 9619, 3610, and 9586 of the UMW (hereinafter sometimes collectively "Locals").

The defendants have filed motions directed at the sufficiency of the complaint in various respects. The plaintiffs have responded to those motions, and the matter is now ready for disposition.

The Court would note that the defendant, UMW's motions were filed separately from those of the other defendants, which were filed jointly. However, since both sets of motions are similar in most respects, they will be considered together herein.

I. The Facts

For the limited purpose of these various motions, the facts before the Court are those stated in the complaint. The allegations of the complaint are essentially as follows:

Plaintiffs, Central Appalachian, Southern Appalachian and Central are corporations engaged in the operation of coal mines producing high quality steam coal. Each operator is the creation and wholly owned subsidiary of the plaintiff Appalachian Power, and pursuant to contracts with Appalachian Power supplies at cost all of its coal to the parent corporation for use in Appalachian Power's electricity generating plants. Plaintiff Appalachian Power is a public utility corporation engaged in the production and distribution of electric power. Defendant UMW is the certified representative for purposes of collective bargaining of the operators' production and maintenance employees. District 17 and the defendant Locals are administrative divisions and agencies of UMW. District 17 also represents all of the operators' production and maintenance employees for purposes of collective bargaining. Local 9051 represents employees of Central Appalachian; Local 9619 represented employees of Central Appalachian at its Lens Creek Mines prior to April 1, 1973, but since that time represents employees of Southern Appalachian, which on that date acquired and began operating the Lens Creek Mines formerly operated by Central Appalachian. Local 3610 represents employees of Southern Appalachian at its Bull Creek Mines. Local 9586 represents employees of Central at its Sporn Mine.

All plaintiffs, with the exception of Appalachian Power, are parties to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1971. (NBCWA of 1971). All plaintiffs, with the exception of Appalachian Power and Southern Appalachian, were parties to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1968. (NBCWA of 1968). Both master agreements had been negotiated on the industry level by the parent international union, UMWA, on behalf of its constituent coal mine workers, who are also members of the various defendant local unions and District 17, of the UMWA.

Both the NBCWA of 1968 and the NBCWA of 1971 contain provisions for the negotiation and arbitration of all local disputes. Neither agreement expressly reserves to employees the right to engage in strikes over disputes arbitrable under those agreements.

The plaintiffs assert that the referenced contracts created in the employees covered and their various local, district and international union organizations, those organizations being the defendants herein, a contractual obligation to refrain from stikes over disputes arbitrable under the contracts. The plaintiffs further assert that the defendant union organizations assumed an affirmative contractual duty to act to prevent such strikes, and to bring them to an immediate halt. Finally, the plaintiffs assert that under both the 1968 and 1971 agreements, the labor organization defendants have the authority and power to enforce, with respect to their members, the contractual obligation to refrain from strikes; and to settle disputes in accordance with the grievance and arbitration procedures of those agreements.

The plaintiffs allege that despite the claimed contractual obligations which they assumed under these contracts, the defendant labor organizations have engaged in, established, and maintained, a pattern and practice of resorting to, and engaging in, strikes in violation of the contracts, and in derogation of the grievance and arbitration provisions set forth therein. Despite their claimed obligation to enforce, and maintain the integrity of, the contracts, and despite the means available to them to that end, the defendant labor organizations have instigated, encouraged, supported, ratified and condoned the pattern and practice of repeated strikes in violation of the contracts.

Appalachian Power created and maintains the several operator plaintiffs, as its subsidiaries, for the purpose of having at all times a dependable, uninterrupted supply of high quality steam coal suitable for use in its electrical power generating plants. Allegedly, in reliance upon the contracts made between its subsidiary operators and promises made by the defendants, not to interrupt work and production by strikes over arbitrable disputes during the life of the contracts, Appalachian Power has planned and arranged its operations and methods of operations, including the expenditure of large sums of money in the construction of coal burning power plants and related facilities, to utilize advantageously the coal production from the mines of its subsidiary operators.

It is further alleged that as a result of the repeated strikes, the plaintiffs have each suffered serious and irreparable injury. The following specifics are referenced. The coal production, operations and plans and schedules of operations of the subsidiary mine operator plaintiffs have been repeatedly halted and disrupted by the strikes. Many thousands of tons of coal production have been lost to them. Their costs of production have been greatly increased. Their ability to secure and protect their property and premises has been impaired, the stability of their work force and their ability to keep and retain key employees has been impaired and placed in jeopardy. They have been denied the uninterrupted production and peaceful labor relations during the life of the contracts which the grievance and arbitration provisions of the contracts purported to assure.

As a result of the repeated strikes, and the consequent interruption of production and disruption of operations of its subsidiary operator plaintiffs, the parent plaintiff, Appalachian Power, has allegedly been denied the dependable and uninterrupted coal supply which it requires, and which the labor contracts between its subsidiaries and the defendants seemed to assure. Since its intracorporate arrangements with its coal mining subsidiaries require it to pay for the coal at its cost of production, the reduction of coal produced correlatively increases the cost to plaintiff.

Finally, the plaintiffs allege that unless the defendants are restrained and enjoined by this Court from so doing they will continue to engage in, condone, encourage, support and ratify such strikes and work stoppages and said pattern and practice and course of action with respect thereto, at said mines and facilities, and to prevent the operation thereof; and that the defendants will further extend and expand said strikes or work stoppages and their pattern and practice and course of action with respect thereto.

On the foregoing basis, each of the plaintiffs seeks both injunctive and compensatory relief against all of the defendants.

II. Discussion
A. Appalachian Power Company's Status as a Party-Plaintiff

All of the defendants have raised a challenge to Appalachian Power's status as a party-plaintiff. These challenges essentially amount to motions, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), F.R.Civ.Proc., to dismiss the complaint of Appalachian Power for failure to state a claim.

The defendants point out that jurisdiction is alleged solely on the basis of § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). They assert that because it is not alleged that Appalachian Power was the signatory to any contract with the defendants, it has failed to raise a claim under § 301.

Appalachian Power concedes that it is not, itself, a signatory to any contract with the defendants. It argues, however, that it is sufficient, under § 301 of the LMRA, that the claim raised is based on a collective bargaining contract, whether or not the party raising that claim was, itself, a signatory to the agreement in question. The Court agrees. See Smith v. Evening News Association, 371 U.S. 195, 83 S.Ct. 267, 9 L.Ed.2d 246 (1962).

The question, therefore, becomes whether Appalachian Power has a claim based on the collective bargaining agreement between the defendants and Appalachian Power's subsidiary suppliers, even though Appalachian Power was not, itself, a party to those contracts. The Court concludes that it does.

The Court does not, however, base this conclusion on the theory that Appalachian Power has standing under the contracts as an intended third party beneficiary to those contracts. It may be, as plaintiffs contend, that it was the intent of Appalachian Power's various coal producing subsidiaries in negotiating the agreements to assure the parent...

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