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Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. v. United Mine Workers of America

as amended august 21 1975.: July 24, 1975.

JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORPORATION
v.
UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA; DISTRICT NO. 5, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA; AND LOCAL UNION NO. 762, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, APPELLANTS



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. No. 74-669)

Author: Weis

Before: SEITZ, Chief Judge and ROSENN and WEIS, Circuit Judges.

Opinion OF THE COURT

WEIS, Circuit Judge.

A district court injunction against a work stoppage pending arbitration of a safety dispute is the subject of this appeal. The union asserts that its action in withdrawing workers from certain parts of a mine was authorized by the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement. We conclude that the factual background differs from the conditions present in Gateway Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers, 414 U.S. 368, 38 L. Ed. 2d 583, 94 S. Ct. 629 (1974), and that the employer's contractual undertaking precluded the final relief which it obtained from the district court.

The Mine Safety & Health Committee of United Mine Workers, Local 762, inspected Vesta Mine No. 5 in Mount Scenery, Pennsylvania on July 7, 1974 and determined that an "imminent danger" existed. The union members then refused to enter any part of the mine and the owner, the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company, applied to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania for an injunction terminating the work stoppage. On July 10, 1974, after a conference in chambers, the company and union officers prepared a stipulation providing for a resumption of operations in all areas of the mine except those specifically designated in the safety committee reports. At a meeting of the local union that evening, the members present voted not to return to work. On the following day, the district court ordered that picketing be discontinued and the men return to work except in those parts of the mine which had been listed in the safety committee report. That order was not opposed by the union and the miners resumed partial production.

On July 17-18, 1974, a hearing was held on the request for an injunction applicable to the designated parts of the mine. At that time, the union presented evidence that the Committee's action was precipitated by J. & L. Steel's failure to provide canopies for certain mining equipment as specified in the regulations*fn1 promulgated under the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. 30 U.S.C. ยงยง 801 et seq. The testimony established that the members of the Safety Committee believed that these omissions constituted an imminent danger. The company asserted that the federal mine inspectors had found no imminent danger and that attachment of canopies had been delayed by technical problems of design and manufacture.

The district court ruled that the union had failed to prove by ascertainable, objective evidence the existence of an imminent danger of death or bodily injury from an abnormally dangerous work condition. Accordingly, on July 29, 1974 an injunction was issued which required work to resume in those parts of the mine mentioned in the Safety Committee's report and which had not been subject to the court's order of July 10, 1974. Moreover, the parties were directed to utilize the contractual grievance procedures.

The company and the union were signatories to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1971 which provided, in some detail, for the settlement of disputes through a grievance procedure involving a form of arbitration as the final step. The contract also required the formation at each mine of a safety and health committee whose members were selected by the Union and who were given the right of inspection of the work place.

Article III, Section (g)(1) of the Agreement provided that:

"If the [mine health and safety] committee believes conditions found endanger the lives and bodies of the employees, it shall report its findings and recommendations to the Employer. In those special instances where the committee believes an imminent danger exists and a committee recommends that the Employer remove all employees from the involved area, the Employer is required to follow the recommendation of the committee."

In the event that disputes developed between the Committee and the mine owner, two cumulative remedies were made available:

1. under Article III, Section (g)(3), if the members of the Committee had acted capriciously, they could be removed through the regular grievance procedures;

2. in accordance with Article III, Section (h), differences were to be resolved by utilizing a series of steps ultimately leading to a final decision by the ...


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