United Mine Workers of America v. Pennington

PETITIONER: United Mine Workers of America
RESPONDENT: James M. Pennington et al.
LOCATION: Longshore and Warehouse Union

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 381 US 657 (1965)
ARGUED: Jan 27, 1965
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1965

Harrison Combs - for the petitioner
John A. Rowntree - for the respondents
Theodore J. St. Antoine - for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, as amicus curiae, urging reversal

Facts of the case


Media for United Mine Workers of America v. Pennington

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 27, 1965 in United Mine Workers of America v. Pennington

Earl Warren:

Number 48, United Mineworkers of America versus James M. Pennington et al.

Mr. Combs.

Harrison Combs:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here all the writ of certiorari to the Sixth Circuit of Appeals.

The main question may be stated as follows, where a labor union is charged with having conspired with employee or groups in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act when it executed an industry-wide both the employer collective bargaining agreement which results in stabilizing wages and working conditions at levels to the ability of some employers to pay.

And there is no direct evidence to prove the conspiracy may the Court or a jury inferring conspiracy from union's pursuit of collective employee rights protected are regulated by the facts with the Acts Section 7 and 8.

In my draft, the antitrust -- at the antitrust immunity of labor unions and the clear the proof requirement of Section 6 for the Norris-LaGuardia Act.

I think that is the main question in this case.

The respondent Pennington going business at the Phillips Brothers Coal Company as a partnership where the small coal stripping operation in Campbell County, Tennessee, in 1953, this company executed what we call in 1950 Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement as amended in 1952.

The company again executed in 1955 amendment to Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement and in 1956 amendment to the agreement.

In 1958, the Trustees of the United Mine Workers of America will acquire retirement fund instituted an action against Phillips for a money judgment for delinquent royalties due under the provisions of the various agreements that have signed.

Phillips filed a cross claim against United Mine Workers alleging that the mine workers, the trustees of the welfare fund and certain coal companies not named as parties had entered into a conspiracy to monopolize the coal industry by fixing the wage scales and the payment for the welfare fund and certain other provisions in the contract as such levels as would be tailored effect, the major coal companies but which would be at such a high level that it would force small coal mines out of business.

The purpose alleged by Phillips was to stabilize the economics of the coal industry and to eliminate the problem of overproduction by eliminating the smaller mines from the coal mining industry and if the conspirators knew when they executed the 1950 contract at this -- this could not pay the wages and the welfare fund benefits.

According to Phillips, the union agreed to surrender its policy of what they said was controlling the working time of the industry and also to not object to the large coal companies recognizing their mines in order to lower the cost of production.

Now, the union in turn was promised by the coal -- by the coal companies according to Phillips that the coal companies would not object to increase wage rates and increase payments to the welfare fund subject to their ability to mechanize and absorb the cost and also, that they would permit the union to run a welfare fund, and also to dominate the industry's employees.

The conspiracy as alleged was to be consummate through the instrument of the 1950 Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement and its successive amendments.

It is alleged that there was an expressed agreement to that effect.

The increased organizing activities after 1950 with intended wage increases and welfare payments, and the operators' efforts and the union's efforts to obtain a minimum wage rate for the coal industry under the Walsh-Healey Act and to how the government agencies, the purchasing agents to comply there with and the union's investments in two coal companies were among the elements which the company claimed through the conspiracy.

The union denied the conspiracy and denied making any agreement whatsoever other than the 1950 Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement.

The case was tried by the jury.

The jury rendered a general verdict fining that the union had conspired beyond its exemptions as a labor union under the antitrust statutes.

It did not say with whom the union had conspired or it didn't say what elements that it thought constituted the conspiracy.

The damages were in rendered?

Harrison Combs:

Damages were assessed against the union, Mr. Justice Harlan of $93,000 in travel and then, the Court allowed $55,000 in damages for attorney's fee.

The jury rendered the verdict $93,000.

Now all motion N.O.V. or for new trial, the District Court stated and the sole reason that he gave for sustaining the verdict with the jury was this and I quote, “There to his own proof that union representatives, a large coal operator representatives, discussed stabilization of prices at one time or another during the critical periods referred to in the cross claim.”

We submit that the evidence of the record does not sustain the court's assumption of that discussion of prices.

This assumption was based upon two items of evidence as far as I know, a statement by President Louis that the time may come when a division of work in the industry may become necessary and another statement that I'll come to later.

Arthur J. Goldberg:


Harrison Combs:

Your Honor, that is correct, Mr. Justice Goldberg --