Tennessee Coal, Iron Co v. Muscoda Local No 123 Steel Iron Co v. Sloss Red Ore Local No 109 Republic Steel Corporation v. Raimund Local No 121, SLOSS-SHEFFIELD

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMURPHY
Citation88 L.Ed. 949,321 U.S. 590,152 A.L.R. 1014,64 S.Ct. 698
PartiesTENNESSEE COAL, IRON & R. CO. v. MUSCODA LOCAL NO. 123, etc., et al.STEEL & IRON CO. v. SLOSS RED ORE LOCAL NO. 109, etc., et al. REPUBLIC STEEL CORPORATION v. RAIMUND LOCAL NO. 121, etc., et al
Decision Date27 March 1944
Docket NumberSLOSS-SHEFFIELD,No. 409

321 U.S. 590
64 S.Ct. 698
88 L.Ed. 949
TENNESSEE COAL, IRON & R. CO.

v.

MUSCODA LOCAL NO. 123, etc., et al. SLOSS-SHEFFIELD STEEL & IRON CO. v. SLOSS RED ORE LOCAL NO. 109, etc., et al. REPUBLIC STEEL CORPORATION v. RAIMUND LOCAL NO. 121, etc., et al.

No. 409.
Argued and Submitted Jan. 13, 14, 1944.
Decided March 27, 1944.
Rehearing Denied May 29, 1944.

See 322 U.S. 771, 64 S.Ct. 1257.

Page 591

Messrs. Nathan L. Miller, of New York City, and Borden Burr, of Birmingham, Ala., for petitioner Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co.

Messrs. E. L. All, S. M. Bronaugh, and William B. White, all of Birmingham, Ala., for petitioner Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron Co.

Messrs. T. F. Patton, of Cleveland Ohio, R. T. Rives, of Montgomery, Ala., and Borden Burr, of Birmingham, Ala., for petitioner Republic Steel Corporation.

Mr. Crampton Harris, of Birmingham, Ala., J. A. Lipscomb, of Bessemer, Ala., and J. Q. Smith, of Birmingham, Ala., for respondents Muscoda Local No. 125, etc., and others.

Mr. Charles Fahy, of Washington, D.C., for respondent Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor.

Mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are confronted here with the problem of determining in part what constitutes work or employment in under-

Page 592

ground iron ore mines within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. This question, which is one of first impression, arises out of conflicting claims based upon the actual activities pursued and upon prior custom and contract in the iron ore mines. Such an issue can be resolved only by discarding formalities and adopting a realistic attitude, recognizing that we are dealing with human beings and with a statute that is intended to secure to them the fruits of their toil and exertion.

Three iron ore mining companies, petitioners herein, filed declaratory judgment actions1 to determine whether time spent by iron ore miners in traveling underground in mines to and from the 'working face'2 constitutes work or employment for which compensation must be paid under the Act. The respondent labor unions and their officials, representing petitioners' employees, were named as defendants and the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor was allowed to intervene. The actual controversy relates only to the hours of employment during the period intervening between the effective date of the Act, October 24, 1938, and the dates when the respective actions were initiated in April, 1941.3 It is

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conceded that if underground travel constitutes employment, the miners worked more than the statutory maximum workweek and are entitled to be paid one and one-half times the regular rate for the excess hours. But if the travel time is excluded from the workweek, thus limiting it to the time spent at the working face, no overtime payments are due.

After extended hearings, the District Court found that the travel time 'bears in a substantial degree every indicia of worktime: supervision by the employer, physical and mental exertion, activity necessary to be performed for the employers' benefit, and conditions peculiar to the occupation of mining.' (40 F.Supp. 4, 10.) The court accordingly ruled that the travel time, as well as the time spent at the surface obtaining and returning tools, lamps and carbide and checking in and out, was included within the workweek. 40 F.Supp. 4. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed as to the travel time, holding that the District Court's findings on that matter were supported by substantial evidence. The judgment was modified by the Circuit Court, however, by excluding from the workweek the time spent in the activities at the surface. 5 Cir., 135 F.2d 320, rehearing denied 5 Cir., 137 F.2d 176. The importance of the problem as to the travel time led us to grant certiorari.4

Specifically we are called upon to decide whether the District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals properly found that iron ore miners were at work within the meaning of the Act while engaged in underground travel which they were obliged to perform on the property of and under the direction of petitioners as a necessary concomitant of their employment. The record shows that petitioners own and operate twelve underground iron ore

Page 594

mines in Jefferson County, Alabama,5 and that the general pattern of facts underlying the findings of the courts below is essentially the same in each of these mines. 6

The miners begin their day by arriving on the company property at a scheduled hour7 and going to the bath house, where they change into working clothes. 8 They then walk to the tally house near the mine entrance or portal; there they check in and hang up individual brass checks, furnished by petitioners, on a tally or check-in board. This enables the foreman and other officials to tell at a glance those individuals who have reported for work and those production and service crews that are incomplete and in need of substitutes. Vacancies are filled and the head miners and crews receive any necessary instructions. In addition, each miner either rents a battery lamp for the day or buys a can of carbide each day or two for underground illumination purposes. And at some of the mines,

Page 595

many miners stop at a tool box or tool house on the surface to pick up other small supplies and tools necessary for their work. These activities consume but a few minutes.

The miners thereupon are required to report at the loading platform at the mine portal and await their turn to ride down the inclined shafts of the mines. Originally the miners could reach the working faces entirely by foot, but as the shafts increased in length petitioners provided transportation down the main shafts. The miners accordingly ride part of the way to the working faces in ore skips9 or regular man trips,10 which operate on narrow gauge tracks by means of cables or hoisting ropes. The operation of the skips and man trips is under the strict control and supervision of the petitioners at all times and they refuse to permit the miners to walk rather than ride. Regular schedules are fixed; loading and unloading are supervised; the speed of the trips is regulated; and the conduct of the miners during the rides is prescribed.

About three to six trips are made, depending on the size of the mine and the number of miners. Ten men sit on each man trip car, while from 30 to 40 are crowded into an ore skip. They are forced to jump several feet into the skip from the loading platform, which not infrequently causes injuries to ankles, feet and hands. The skips are usually overcrowded and the men stand tightly pressed together. The heads of most of them are a foot or more

Page 596

above the top of the skips. But since the skips usually clear the low mine ceilings by only a few inches, the miners are compelled to bend over. They thus ride in a close 'spoon-fashion,' with bodies contorted and heads drawn below the level of the skip top. Broken ribs, injured arms and legs, and bloody heads often result; even fatalities are not unknown.

The length of the rides in the dark, moist, malodorous shafts varies in the different mines from 3,000 feet to 12,000 feet. The miners then climb out of the skips and man trips at the underground man-loading platforms or 'hoodlums' and continue their journeys on foot for distances up to two miles. These subterranean walks are filled with discomforts and hidden perils. The surroundings are dark and dank. The air is increasingly warm and humid, the ventilation poor. Odors of human sewage, resulting from a complete absence of sanitary facilities, permeate the atmosphere. Rotting mine timbers add to the befouling of the air. Many of the passages are level, but others take the form of tunnels and steep grades. Water, muck and stray pieces of ore often make the footing uncertain. Low ceilings must be ducked and moving ore skips must be avoided. Overhead, a maze of water and air pipe lines, telephone wires, and exposed high voltage electric cables and wires present everdangerous obstacles, especially to those transporting tools. At all times the miners are subject to the hazards of falling rocks.

Moreover, most of the working equipment, except drills and heavy supplies, is kept near the 'hoodlums.' This equipment is carried each day by foot by the crews through these perilous paths from the 'hoodlums' to the working faces. Included are such items as fifty-pound sacks of dynamite, dynamite caps, fuses, gallon cans of oil and servicemen's supplies. Actual drilling and loading of the ore begin on arrival at the working faces, interrupted only by a thirty minute lunch period spent at or near the faces.

Page 597

The service and maintenance men, of course, work wherever they are needed.

At the end of the day's duties at the working faces, the miners lay down their drills, pick up their other equipment and retrace their steps back to the 'hoodlums.' They wait there until an ore skip or man trip is available to transport them back to the portal. After arriving on the surface, they return their small tools and lamps, pick up their brass checks at the tally house, and proceed to bathe and change their clothes at the bath house. Finally they leave petitioners' property and return to their homes.

In determining whether this underground travel constitutes compensable work or employment within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act, we are not guided by any precise statutory definition of work or employment. Section 7(a) merely provides that no one, who is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, shall be employed for a workweek longer than the prescribed hours unless compensation is paid for the excess hours at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate. Section 3(g) defines the word 'employ' to...

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702 practice notes
  • Lugo v. Farmer's Pride Inc., Civil Action No. 07–0749.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 20, 2011
    ...“work.” See 29 U.S.C. § 203 (“Definitions”). The question of how to define “work” arose in Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local, 321 U.S. 590, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944), superseded by statute, 29 U.S.C. § 251 et seq., when iron ore miners sought overtime compensation for t......
  • Chambers v. Sears, Civil Action No. H–08–3676.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 30, 2010
    ...Court's “early cases defined those terms broadly.” Id. (citing, inter alia, Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944) (defining “work or employment” as “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or r......
  • Mei Xing Yu v. Hasaki Rest., Inc., No. 17-3388-cv
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 6, 2019
    ...walking on the employer's premises from the time clock to the work bench. See Tennessee Coal, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123 , 321 U.S. 590, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944) ; Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Local No. 6167, United Mine Workers of Am. , 325 U.S. 161, 65 S.Ct. 1063, 89 ......
  • Martinez v. Bohls Bearing Equipment Co., No. Civ.A.SA-04-CA-0120-XR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • April 11, 2005
    ...may bind itself to any specified future conduct, however fairly bargained"). 17. Tennessee Coal, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944); Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Local No. 6167, UMW, 325 U.S. 161, 65 S.Ct. 1063, 89 L.Ed. 1534 (1945); Ande......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
701 cases
  • Lugo v. Farmer's Pride Inc., Civil Action No. 07–0749.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 20, 2011
    ...“work.” See 29 U.S.C. § 203 (“Definitions”). The question of how to define “work” arose in Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local, 321 U.S. 590, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944), superseded by statute, 29 U.S.C. § 251 et seq., when iron ore miners sought overtime compensation for t......
  • Chambers v. Sears, Civil Action No. H–08–3676.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 30, 2010
    ...Court's “early cases defined those terms broadly.” Id. (citing, inter alia, Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944) (defining “work or employment” as “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or r......
  • Mei Xing Yu v. Hasaki Rest., Inc., No. 17-3388-cv
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 6, 2019
    ...walking on the employer's premises from the time clock to the work bench. See Tennessee Coal, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123 , 321 U.S. 590, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944) ; Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Local No. 6167, United Mine Workers of Am. , 325 U.S. 161, 65 S.Ct. 1063, 89 ......
  • Martinez v. Bohls Bearing Equipment Co., No. Civ.A.SA-04-CA-0120-XR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • April 11, 2005
    ...may bind itself to any specified future conduct, however fairly bargained"). 17. Tennessee Coal, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944); Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Local No. 6167, UMW, 325 U.S. 161, 65 S.Ct. 1063, 89 L.Ed. 1534 (1945); Ande......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Sword and the Shield: The Benefits of Opinion Letters by Employment and Labor Agencies.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 86 Nbr. 4, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...(last visited Nov. 10, 2021). (39) 26 U.S.C. [section] 206. (40) Tennessee Coal, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598 (1944), superseded by statute, 29 U.S.C. [section] 251(a), as recognized in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, 574 U.S. 27 (41) Anderson ......

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