UMW not properly notified of coal company's suit

By Steve Korris | Aug 7, 2009

CLARKSBURG – Consolidation Coal Company didn't properly notify the United Mine Workers of America that it sued the union for the right to fire a miner.

CLARKSBURG – Consolidation Coal Company didn't properly notify the United Mine Workers of America that it sued the union for the right to fire a miner.

The company filed suit in federal court at Clarksburg on May 11, but didn't execute a summons until after The West Virginia Record reported the allegations in the complaint.

On July 30, courier David Atkinson of Charleston served the summons in the union office at 1300 Kanawha Boulevard East.

The court posted a notice of service on Aug. 3, officially starting the litigation.

Consolidation Coal seeks to set aside a decision of arbitrator Michael Wolf, who voided the discharge of Markel Koon.

Koon tested positive for cocaine in a random sample at Robinson Run Mine on New Year's Eve, according to the complaint.

The union filed a grievance on Jan. 23, and Wolf brought it to a hearing in two weeks.

On Feb. 16, Wolf converted the discharge to suspension without pay. On Feb. 26, he ordered Consolidation Coal to provide drug treatment for Koon.

Consolidation Coal's federal complaint argues that the national union contract, the rules at Robinson Run, state law and federal law all authorize discharge.

"West Virginia and federal law similarly forbid Consolidation from allowing intoxicants and persons under their influence to enter the Robinson Run mine," wrote Carolyn Wade of Steptoe and Johnson in Clarksburg.

Wade estimated the cost of rehabilitation at $12,000 to $14,000, and she asserted that nothing in the union contract or law obligates the company to provide it.

She certified on May 11 that she served the complaint by mailing it to United Mine Workers associate general counsel Judith Rivlin in Fairfax, Virginia.

That didn't bring the union to court, but formal service in Charleston might do it.

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