National Labor Relations Board v. Amax Coal Company

PETITIONER: United Mine Workers of America, Local No. 1854, et al.
RESPONDENT: National Labor Relations Board, et al.
LOCATION: Indiana State Employment Security Division

DOCKET NO.: 80-289
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 453 US 322 (1981)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Daniel B. Gruender - on behalf of the Respondents Amax Coal Company et al
Harrison Combs - on behalf of the Petitioners United Mine Workers et al
Harlon L. Dalton - on behalf of the Petitioner National Labor Relations Board

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Amax Coal Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1981 in National Labor Relations Board v. Amax Coal Company

Warren E. Burger:

We will turn to our first case and we'll hear arguments in United Mine Workers v. the Labor Board and the consolidated case.

Mr. Dalton, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Harlon L. Dalton:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case comes to the Court on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Two petitions were filed, one by the United Mine Workers and a second on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board.

I should add that the Department of Labor, which administers ERISA, is not a party in this proceeding but concurs in the views presented by the Labor Board.

The question presented in both cases is whether a management-appointed trustee of a jointly administered Taft-Hartley trust fund is a collective bargaining agent within the meaning of Section 8(b)(1)(B) of the National Labor Relations Act, which forbids unions from coercing employers in the selection of their collective bargaining representatives.

In practical terms, at issue in this case is whether a union may strike as part of its effort to induce an employer to contribute to a multiemployer, as distinct from a single employer, pension, or welfare fund.

Now, although the dealings between Amax Coal Company and the union in this case were rather complex, the facts that relate to the sole issue that's before this Court are rather straightforward.

Amax Coal Company mines coal.

It does so primarily in the midwest and in deep shaft bituminous mines.

It bargains with the UMW through the Bituminous Coal Operators Association with respect to its midwest operations.

Now, in 1972, Amax Coal Company opened its first surface strip mine in Gillette, Wyoming, called the Belle Ayr mine, and that's the subject of this litigation.

Amax did not negotiate through the BCOA in connection with the Belle Ayr mine but instead entered into a separate agreement with the mine workers that was patterned on the BCOA contract.

And pursuant to that independently negotiated contract Amax contributed to the union's national multiemployer pension and welfare funds.

In January of 1975, at the expiration of that Belle Ayr contract and the expiration of several other western surface mine contracts, the union struck the Belle Ayr mine and the mines of other western coal operators.

The following month, in February, the union and Amax began negotiations over the Belle Ayr mine but they reached an impasse in March and in mid-March... I think, March 17... Amax resumed operations at the mine under its last contract proposal.

Over the course of the next year the parties engaged in sporadic negotiations but no agreement was ever reached between them.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Dalton, does the Government concede that if the person in question here was a collective bargaining agent rather than a trustee, there was coercion on the part of the union?

Harlon L. Dalton:

Yes.

Now, among the sticking points which led to the impasse was... and there were several, but there's only one that's before this Court today... was Amax's refusal to continue to contribute to the multiemployer pension and trust funds.

Those funds were set up pursuant to Section 302(c)(5) of the Labor Management Relations Act, the Taft-Hartley Act, and provide for comprehensive health and retirement benefits.

Those funds are administered pursuant to that section by three trustees, one appointed by the union, one appointed by management, and the third trustee to be appointed by the other two.

At the time the negotiations between Amax and the union began over the Belle Ayr mine, the trustees were already appointed, the trust funds were set up, and the trustees were engaged in the active administration of them.

Now, while acknowledging that the union's trust fund proposals were mandatory subjects of collective bargaining, Amax took the position that the management-appointed trustees were collective bargaining representatives and that therefore the union's insistence to impasse, the union's striking in an effort to induce the company to contribute to those trust funds constituted a violation of Section 8(b)(1)(B).

And that's because the trustees were already selected at the time negotiations took place.

Amax filed an unfair labor charge with reference to this issue.

They filed other charges but they are not before the Court.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Mr. Dalton, may I ask one thing?

Harlon L. Dalton:

Yes.