U.S. Steel Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America

Decision Date24 September 1975
Docket NumberNo. 74-2610,74-2610
Citation519 F.2d 1236
Parties90 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2539, 77 Lab.Cas. P 11,093 UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA et al., Defendants-Appellants, District 20, United Mine Workers of America, and Local 892, United MineWorkers of America, Defendants-Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

William E. Mitch, Birmingham, Ala., Jack Drake, Tuscaloosa, Ala., Harrison Combs, Joseph A. Yablonski, Washington, D. C., for defendants-appellants.

M. L. Taliaferro, C. V. Stelzenmuller, Birmingham, Ala., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before BROWN, Chief Judge, and WISDOM and COLEMAN, Circuit Judges.

WISDOM, Circuit Judge:

This appeal is from the issuance of a prospective Boys Markets 1 injunction and the later adjudication that United Mine Workers' District 20 and UMW Local 8982 were in civil contempt of the injunctive order. For some time before the issuance of the injunction in question there had been a long series of strikes over arbitrable issues. The district court, seeking to stop the steady flow of strikes, ordered the union not to strike over the current dispute or over any future dispute. The members of the local union apparently were unimpressed with the court's order. They stopped work at the Concord and Oak Groves mines in Alabama as a "memorial protest", not against United States Steel, their employer, but against the Alabama Power Company. The miners picketed that company for importing coal from South Africa. The district court found the union in civil contempt. United States Steel Corp. v. UMWA, N.D.Ala., 1974, 383 F.Supp. 1082. The union had filed its appeal of the prospective injunction before it was found in civil contempt, and now appeals both from the injunction and the contempt finding. We reverse on both issues.


United States Steel operates the Concord and Oak Groves mines in Alabama.

The miners had walked out six times over various issues during the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1971, up to the time of the strike that is the subject of this appeal.

In March 1972 they struck over a miner's death. The strike lasted one day. In December 1972 they struck for a day over a manning dispute. On November 12, 1973, the miners struck over the availability of rags, an issue related to safety in the mines. 2 This strike lasted for one day before it was enjoined by a temporary restraining order. This order has remained in effect by consent or perhaps because of the parties' inaction.

On April 12, 1974, a miner's death precipitated a 24-hour walkout. No judicial action was taken on this strike.

On May 9, 1974, a dispute over the filling of vacancies and seniority and transfer issues caused a strike lasting two and two-thirds days. On May 9, United States Steel made a Motion for an Order to Show Cause why the union should not be held in contempt of the temporary restraining order of November 12, 1973, issued in connection with the controversy over the rags. Alternatively, the motion asked that the order of November 12 be amended expressly to cover the May 9 strike. The district court enjoined the strike on the same day. The next day, May 10, United States Steel moved for an order to show cause and the district court issued that order immediately. A hearing on a preliminary injunction was held on May 17, 1974. On May 20 the district court issued a preliminary injunction, reading in part, as follows:

. . . defendants and each of them, their officers, agents and members and all persons acting in combination or concert with any of them, or aiding and abetting them be and each of them hereby are enjoined and restrained during the pendency of this civil action until midnight, November 11, 1974, or until further order of this Court from engaging in any strike or work stoppage at plaintiff's Concord Mine, or enlarging or extending any strike or work stoppage at Concord Mine to Oak Grove Mine over any disagreement about the interpretation or application of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties or any disagreement over any matter not mentioned in said agreement, or over local trouble of any kind, and from inducing or encouraging any of plaintiff's employees to engage in such a strike or work stoppage by word of mouth, sign, signal, vote, advice or device of any kind, or in any other manner interfering with the business of plaintiff as a means of settling any such disagreement in a manner other than set out in the collective bargaining agreement, provided that as a condition to the issuance of this preliminary injunction plaintiff is enjoined when requested by the defendants to handle any such dispute or disagreement under the grievance and arbitration provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. Provided, further, that the quitting of labor by an employee or employees in good faith because of abnormally dangerous conditions for work at the place of employment of such employee or employees will not be deemed a strike under this preliminary injunction.

The italicized language is taken word for word from the arbitration clause in the collective bargaining agreement.

On May 30 the district court amended the injunction by adding the following paragraph to the Conclusions of Law:

The Court recognizes that Boy's Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerks Union, Local 70, 389 U.S. 235, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d 199 (1970), only enjoined the strike in progress at the time of The UMW district and local unions filed a timely notice of appeal on June 5, 1974.

the suit. However, the court in Boy's Markets also adopted the dissenting opinion in Sinclair Refining Company v. Atkinson, 370 U.S. 195, 82 S.Ct. 1328, 8 L.Ed.2d 440 (1962), which set out when injunctive relief would be appropriate despite the Norris-LaGuardia Act. The Court feels that the language of the Sinclair dissent, as quoted by Boy's Markets, 398 U.S. at 253-54, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d at 212, is sufficiently broad to allow a prospective injunction of the type herein ordered when the tests as set out by that language are met. The Court is of the opinion that this collective bargaining agreement is so broad as to encompass any situation that could possibly arise between the parties except a good-faith walkout because of a hazard to personal safety. The Court is of the further opinion that based upon the prior practice and pattern of strikes on the part of the union, and the previous disobedience of the temporary restraining orders issued by this Court, that the only way to avoid irreparable injury to the employer in this case is to issue a prospective injunction. While this decision may seem at first glance to go further than allowed by Boy's Markets, this Court nevertheless feels that once the tests as set down by Boy's Markets are met, as is the case here, then a prohibition against future strikes is warranted, and was contemplated by the author of the Sinclair dissent (and therefore, presumably, was contemplated by the Supreme Court in Boy's Markets). Why else would the Sinclair language be quoted in Boy's Markets which requires the District Judge to consider 'whether breaches are occurring and will continue, or have been threatened and will be committed.' 398 U.S. at 253-54, 90 S.Ct. at 1594, 26 L.Ed.2d at 212.

On June 15, Lawson, president of the local, called E. J. Files, United States Steel's superintendent, to tell him that the union planned a protest over the importation of South African coal by the Alabama Power Company. 3 That Monday virtually all miners stayed off the job, and the union picketed Alabama Power's headquarters in Birmingham. The evidence is undisputed that there was no dispute between the employer and the miners. Predictably, United States Steel made a motion on the day of the strike to show cause why the union should not be held in contempt of the May 30 preliminary injunction. The district judge issued the order, held a hearing, and adjudicated the union in contempt. 4 He ordered the union to purge

itself of contempt or pay a $12,000 fine, if 75 percent of that day's 4:00 p. m. shift did not appear at work and $4,000 for each successive shift not 75 percent manned. The mines were fully manned by the midnight shift, but the union failed to meet the condition that the 4:00 p. m. shift be three quarters manned. After a hearing on June 19, the court issued an order on June 25, finding that the union failed to purge itself of contempt. Only 45 out of 206 miners had shown up for the 4:00 p. m. shift, and the union had not attempted by telephone to notify the men to return to work. The union filed a notice of appeal on July 3, 1974.


We start our analysis with the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 101-15, 1970, and the accommodation between it and Labor Management Relations Act (the Taft-Hartley Act) § 301, 29 U.S.C. § 185 (1970), 5 struck by the Supreme Court in Boys Markets v. Retail Clerks The Norris-LaGuardia Act was designed to prevent federal judges from halting strikes by means of sweeping injunctions. In broad language the Act removed from federal courts jurisdiction to issue injunctions "in any case involving or growing out of any labor dispute to prohibit any person or persons participating or interested in such dispute . . . from doing, whether singly or in concert, any of the following acts: (a) Ceasing or refusing to perform any work or to remain in any relation of employment . . . ". Norris-LaGuardia Act § 4(a), 29 U.S.C. § 104(a) (1970). The Act established procedural safeguards in cases when injunctions were permitted. Norris-LaGuardia Act §§ 7-9, 29 U.S.C. §§ 107-09, 1970.

Union Local 770, 1970, 398 U.S. 235, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d 199.

In Textile Workers Union v. Lincoln Mills, 1957, 353 U.S. 448, 77 S.Ct. 912, 1 L.Ed.2d 972, the Supreme Court held that § 301 of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act au...

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