Gateway Coal Company v. United Mine Workers of America 8212 782, No. 72

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPOWELL
Citation38 L.Ed.2d 583,414 U.S. 368,94 S.Ct. 629
PartiesGATEWAY COAL COMPANY, Petitioner, v. UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA et al. —782
Decision Date08 January 1974
Docket NumberNo. 72

414 U.S. 368
94 S.Ct. 629
38 L.Ed.2d 583
GATEWAY COAL COMPANY, Petitioner,

v.

UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA et al.

No. 72—782.
Argued Oct. 15, 1973.
Decided Jan. 8, 1974.

Syllabus

Certain foremen at petitioner company's coal mine were suspended for falsifying records to show no reduction in airflow at the mine when in fact the airflow had been substantially reduced because of the collapse of a ventilation structure. When the company reinstated the foremen while criminal charges were pending against them, the miners, who are represented by respondent union, struck to protest the alleged safety hazard created by retention of the foremen. The union refused the company's offer to arbitrate. The company then brought this action under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, contending that the broad arbitration clause of the collective-bargaining agreement governed the dispute. The District Court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the union to end the strike and submit to arbitration, and ordered suspension of the two foremen pending the arbitral decision. The Court of Appeals reversed and vacated the injunction, holding that there was a public policy disfavoring compulsory arbitration of safety disputes and that, absent an express provision of the collective-bargaining agreement, the union had no contractual duty to submit the controversy to arbitration and hence no implied obligation not to strike. Held:

1. The arbitration clause of the collective-bargaining agreement covering, inter alia, 'any local trouble of any kind aris(ing) at the mine,' is sufficiently broad to encompass the instant dispute, the foremen's continued presence in the mine being plainly a local issue. Pp. 374—380.

(a) On its face such contractual language admits of only one interpretation: that the agreement required the union to submit this dispute to arbitration for resolution by an impartial umpire. P. 376.

(b) The 'presumption of arbitrability' (an order to arbitrate the particular grievance should not be denied unless it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute, and doubts should be resolved in favor of coverage), United Steelworkers of America v. American

Page 369

Mfg. Co., 363 U.S. 564, 80 S.Ct. 1343, 4 L.Ed.2d 1403; United Steelworkers of America v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 4 L.Ed.2d 1409; United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424, applies to safety disputes. Pp. 377—380.

2. The duty to arbitrate imposed by the collective-bargaining agreement gave rise to an implied no-strike obligation supporting issuance of an injunction against a work stoppage since, in the absence of an explicit expression negating any implied no-strike obligation, the agreement to arbitrate and the duty not to strike should be construed as having coterminous application. Pp. 380 384.

3. On the facts, § 502 of the Labor Management Relations Act providing that the quitting of labor by employees in good faith because of abnormally dangerous conditions for work shall not be deemed a strike, did not deprive the District Court of authority to enforce the no-strike obligation, the suspension of the foremen pending a final arbitral decision having eliminated any safety issue. Pp. 385—387.

4. The circumstances of this case satisfy the traditional equitable considerations controlling the availability of injunctive relief, Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerk's Union, 398 U.S. 235, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d 199, the District Court finding that the union's continued breach of its no-strike obligation would irreparably harm the petitioner, and eliminating any safety issue by suspending the foremen pending a final arbitral decision. P. 387.

466 F.2d 1157, reversed.

Leonard L. Scheinholtz, Pittsburgh, Pa., for petitioner.

Joseph A. Yablonski, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Page 370

Mr. Justice POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves a labor dispute over safety conditions between Gateway Coal Co. and United Mine Workers of America. The questions presented are of considerable importance to the development of federal policy regarding arbitration of safety disputes and enforcement of a contractual duty not to strike.

I

Gateway Coal Co. (the company) owns and operates a large underground coal mine known as the Gateway Mine, in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Some 550 production and maintenance workers, employed by the company, are represented for purposes of collective bargaining by United Mine Workers of America (the union), including its administrative division, District No. 4, and Local No. 6330.

On the morning of April 15, 1971, shortly before the daylight shift at the mine reported for work, a shuttle car operator on the departing midnight shift noticed an unusually low airflow in his section of the mine. His foreman made an anemometer check and discovered an airflow of only 11,000 cubic feet per minute, less than half the normal rate of 28,000 cubic feet per minute.1

Page 371

The company evacuated the men from the mine and ordered the day shift employees to stand by on the surface. An ensuing investigation revealed that the collapse of a ventilation structure had partially blocked an intake airway. Immediate repairs restored normal airflow, and underground mining operations resumed. In the meantime, however, some 100 of the 226 day-shift employees had disregarded the company's instructions to stand by and had gone home.

The following morning the union requested reporting pay for those employees who did not stand by as ordered on April 15, but the company refused. The union rejected the company's offer to arbitrate this dispute, and the miners on all three shifts walked off the job.

On April 17, pursuant to a union request, state and federal inspectors visited the mine to determine the adequacy of the repairs. The investigation revealed that, although collapse of the ventilation structure apparently occurred between 4 and 4:30 on the morning of April 15, records of the anemometer checks purportedly made by three foremen sometime between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. disclosed no reduction in airflow.2 The state inspector impounded the book of entries and notified the company that he would press criminal charges against the three foremen for falsification of the records. The company immediately suspended two of the men but decided against suspension of the third because he had reported the trouble.

On Sunday, April 18, about 200 company miners attended a special union meeting and voted not to work unless the company suspended all three foremen. The

Page 372

company acquiesced in this demand, and the following Monday the miners returned to work. Criminal prosecutions were instituted against the three foremen, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources undertook consideration of possible decertification proceedings against them.

On May 29, while the criminal charges were still pending, the company received word from the Department that it was at liberty to return the three foremen to work if it so desired.3 One of the three had retired during his suspension, but the company reinstated the other two and scheduled them to resume work on the midnight shift on June 1. On that date, miners on all three shifts struck to protest the alleged safety hazard created by the presence of the two foremen in the mines. On June 8, the company formally offered to arbitrate this dispute, but the union refused. Subsequently, the two foremen pleaded nolo contendere to the criminal charges for falsification of the records and paid fines of $200 each.

Faced with a continuing strike and a refusal to arbitrate, the company invoked the jurisdiction of the District Court under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185. It argued that the broad arbitration clause of the collective-bargaining agreement governed this dispute and requested an injunction against continuance of the strike. In a temporary restraining order later converted into a preliminary injunction, the District Court required the union to end the strike and to submit the dispute to an

Page 373

impartial umpire without delay.4 The order further provided for suspension of the two foremen pending the umpire's decision and prospectively required both parties to abide by his resolution of the controversy.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, with one judge dissenting, reversed the judgment of the District Court and vacated the preliminary injunction.5 466 F.2d 1157 (1972). The court intimated that a special provision of the collective-bargaining agreement involved here might be construed to remove safety disputes from the coverage of the general arbitration clause and reasoned that, in any event, the usual federal policy favoring arbitration of labor relations disputes did not apply to questions concerning safety. Id., at 1159—1160. Relying in part on § 502 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 143, the court found that there was a public policy disfavoring compulsory arbitration of safety disputes. Since it was 'neither particularly stated nor unambiguously agreed in the labor contract that the parties shall submit mine safety disputes to binding arbitration,' the Court of Appeals concluded that the union had no contractual duty to submit this controversy to arbitration and hence no implied obligation not to strike. 466 F.2d, at 1159. Perceiving no wrong to enjoin, the court found it unnecessary to consider whether injunctive relief in this case was appropriate under the traditional considerations of equity set forth by this Court in Boys Markets, Inc. v.

Page 374

Retail Clerk's Union, 398 U.S. 235, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d 199 (1970). We granted certiorari, 410 U.S. 953, 93...

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382 practice notes
  • Wren v. Sletten Const. Co., No. 77-2092
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 5, 1981
    ...an issue he has not agreed to arbitrate, because no duty to arbitrate arises by operation of law. Gateway Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers, 414 U.S. 368, 374, 94 S.Ct. 629, 635, 38 L.Ed.2d 583 (1974); United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 135......
  • International Fed. of P. & T. Eng., Loc. No. 1 v. Williams, Civ. A. No. 74-2-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • February 7, 1974
    ...the application or interpretation of an existing collective-bargaining agreement." (Italics added.) In Gateway Coal Co. v. Mine Workers, 414 U.S. 368, 94 S.Ct. 629, 38 L.Ed.2d 583, dated January 8, 1974, the court pointed out "the now well-known presumption of arbitrability for labor disput......
  • Central Appalachian Coal Co. v. UNITED MINE WKRS. OF AM., Civ. A. No. 73-195-CH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • May 10, 1974
    ...in this regard are clearly precluded by the recent Supreme Court decision in Gateway Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, 414 U.S. 368, 94 S.Ct. 629, 38 L.Ed.2d 583, 42 L.W. 4095 (1974). The Court, in Gateway, dealt specifically with the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 196......
  • Pilot Freight Carriers v. INTERN. BROTH., ETC., No. C-219-WS-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • July 23, 1980
    ...487, 92 S.Ct. 1710, 32 L.Ed.2d 248 (1972). Any doubt as to arbitrability should be resolved in favor of coverage. Gateway Coal Co. v. UMW, 414 U.S. 368, 377-79, 94 S.Ct. 629, 636-638, 38 L.Ed.2d 583, 592-93 (1974); United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf, 363 U.S. at 582-83, 80 S.Ct. at 1352,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
381 cases
  • Wren v. Sletten Const. Co., No. 77-2092
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 5, 1981
    ...an issue he has not agreed to arbitrate, because no duty to arbitrate arises by operation of law. Gateway Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers, 414 U.S. 368, 374, 94 S.Ct. 629, 635, 38 L.Ed.2d 583 (1974); United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582, 80 S.Ct. 1347, 135......
  • International Fed. of P. & T. Eng., Loc. No. 1 v. Williams, Civ. A. No. 74-2-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • February 7, 1974
    ...the application or interpretation of an existing collective-bargaining agreement." (Italics added.) In Gateway Coal Co. v. Mine Workers, 414 U.S. 368, 94 S.Ct. 629, 38 L.Ed.2d 583, dated January 8, 1974, the court pointed out "the now well-known presumption of arbitrability for labor disput......
  • Central Appalachian Coal Co. v. UNITED MINE WKRS. OF AM., Civ. A. No. 73-195-CH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • May 10, 1974
    ...in this regard are clearly precluded by the recent Supreme Court decision in Gateway Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, 414 U.S. 368, 94 S.Ct. 629, 38 L.Ed.2d 583, 42 L.W. 4095 (1974). The Court, in Gateway, dealt specifically with the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 196......
  • Pilot Freight Carriers v. INTERN. BROTH., ETC., No. C-219-WS-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • July 23, 1980
    ...487, 92 S.Ct. 1710, 32 L.Ed.2d 248 (1972). Any doubt as to arbitrability should be resolved in favor of coverage. Gateway Coal Co. v. UMW, 414 U.S. 368, 377-79, 94 S.Ct. 629, 636-638, 38 L.Ed.2d 583, 592-93 (1974); United Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf, 363 U.S. at 582-83, 80 S.Ct. at 1352,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Capitalist Development, Labor Law, and the New Working Class.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 6, April 2022
    • April 1, 2022
    ...management theory"). This logic was even extended to strikes protesting major safety problems in Gateway Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers, 414 U.S. 368 (125.) WINANT, supra note 1, at 26 ("The mill was an elemental force, like a Greek god.... It demanded awe and sacrifice and instilled terro......

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