Federal appeals court says Massey has to offer jobs to union miners

By Justin Anderson | Jul 6, 2009

CHARLESTON -- The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a federal judge in Charleston was right in ordering a Massey Energy subsidiary to offer jobs to union workers at a Kanawha mine.

Massey bought the assets of Cannelton Industries and Dunn Coal and Dock in bankruptcy proceedings in October 2004. The assets were assigned to Spartan Mining Company, a Massey subsidiary doing business as Mammoth Coal Company.

When Mammoth started hiring production and maintenance workers at the mine in Dec. 2004, employees of the bankrupt Cannelton and Dunn companies who were members of the United Mine Workers of America were largely refused interviews, according to court records.

"Instead, Mammoth filled vacant positions with inexperienced trainees and non-union employees from its own nearby facilities, even though those facilities themselves were experiencing labor shortages," the appeals court's July 1 opinion says.

The union filed an unfair labor charge on June 2, 2005, with the National Labor Relations Board. Following proceedings, an administrative law judge found that Mammothb had violated several sections of the National Labor Relations Act.

The judge recommended that Mammoth offer immediate employment to the 85 union miners listed as discriminatees as well as back pay. The judge also recommended that Mammoth recognize and bargain with the union.

The labor board's regional director filed a petition with the U.S. District Court in Charleston seeking a temporary injunction to force Mammoth to comply with the administrative law judge's ruling pending the conclusion of those proceedings.

Federal Judge Joseph R. Goodwin granted the petition, but only as it relates to Mammoth's offering employment to union miners.

Mammoth argued in its appeal that if it were forced to hire the union miners, it would have to layoff other employees. The company later rescinded that argument because after it hired the union miners, layoffs were not necessary.

The labor board also appealed Goodwin's decision because the judge rejected the recommendation that Mammoth be required to recognize and bargain with the union.

The appeals court rejected those arguments.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case number: 08-1973

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