Ramsey v. United Mine Workers of America

RESPONDENT: United Mine Workers of America
LOCATION: United States District Court for the District of Columbia

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 401 US 302 (1971)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1970
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Ramsey v. United Mine Workers of America

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1970 in Ramsey v. United Mine Workers of America

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments in number 88, Ramsey and Nunley against United Mine Works.

Mr. Rowntree, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

John A. Rowntree:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The Tennessee, the Southern Tennessee coal producers involved in this case as petitioners charged that there was a conspiracy between major coal producers of the country and the respondent United Mine Workers to restrict competition and to raise prices in the coal industry.

They charged that the amendments to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement were use to the further the purposes of this conspiracy.

The BCOA, Bituminous Coal Operators Association was organized in 1950.

Largely, through the efforts of Consolidation Coal Company, the largest coal producer.

The head of consolidation testified in this case with respect to his competitors that even though the competitor operated in poor mining conditions with the less productivity than consolidation did still you don’t want him to have a lower wage scale than you if you can avoid it.

And after organized BCOA in 1950, BCOA proceeded to negotiate with UMW throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s amendments to the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1950.

These amendments consisted very largely of substantial flat across the board wage increases applicable to every job in the coal industry regardless of the productivity or the mechanization of the particular job.

These amendments were taken to the hundreds of all the units in the industry outside of BCOA for signing.

By 1958, 82% of the industry was less organized under the national contract as thus amended.

Then in December 1958, with the next two largest coal associations participating, BCOA negotiated the 1958 amendment which included to Protective Wage Clause, the PWC.

The coal associations demanded that UMW signed paragraph “A” of the Protective Wage Clause set forth at page 11 of our main brief.

This says that UMW will not enter into become a party to or permit any agreement or understanding other than national contract terms for the duration of the national contract.

This provision was in the face of the national contract throughout the damage period in this case.

The trial court’s opinion shows that it is matter of fact, the international union of UMW did not enter into become a party to or permit any agreement or understanding other than national contract terms with any unit of the industry.

And this was true even though the mining conditions be productivity, the ability to use the big new mining machinery tremendously varied across the country.

The repeated flat wage increases made rapidly increasing productivity, increasing mechanization and absolute necessity for any company to stay alive.

And from the national viewpoint, from the findings of the trial court there occurred an industrial revolution through mechanization in the coal industry in the period of 1950 to 1964.

Productivity tripled in a few short years and nearly three-fourths of the men were forced out of the jobs in the industry.

Court also found that by 1960 the class one, the largest mines were rapidly regaining the dominant share of production that they held before World War II.

The court also found that if you put the whole coal industry of the country together, taking out the two largest producers that whole industry by 1960 was losing operating losses of millions of dollars a year under the national contract, while the largest companies were prospered and taking over the industry.

Now, the Southern -- and that is the picture from the national scene.

The Southern Tennessee field was completely organized by 1950, but this flat wage increases got beyond the abilities of the Southern Tennessee producers.

The trial court found that since 1960, there has not been a single incident of a successful coal mining operation in southern Tennessee under the national contract even though the only alternatives where they sign the contract or go out a business.

Potter Stewart:

This is primarily because of the physical way the coal was embedded in that field in Tennessee that in order, in other words to make maximum and efficient utilization there’s no machinery you have to have thick and rather evenly stratified seams of coals, right?

John A. Rowntree:

That’s correct and we say --

Potter Stewart:

And those Tennessee fields they are [Voice Overlap] even in thin.

John A. Rowntree:

And we say that the reserves of the major companies are adoptable to this big new machinery, but such fields this southern Tennessee --