Union, coal company seek to vacate arbitration awards

By Kyla Asbury | Aug 8, 2018

CLARKSBURG — The United Mine Workers of America and the Monongalia County Coal Company have both filed complaints in federal court against each other to vacate two arbitration awards.

In UMWA's complaint, which was filed June 4 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, the union asked for an arbitration award made by arbitrator William A. Babiskin in March to be vacated.

UMWA and MCCC are bound by a collective bargaining agreement. In November, a dispute arose over MCCC's use of non-bargaining unit personnel to conduct repair and maintenance work at one of the mine sites.

Despite it being a holiday, several UMWA members volunteered to work to perform the repair and maintenance. However, their requests were denied, and MCCC then employed contractors to perform the work.

The union alleges the work was customarily performed by union employees and was under the union's jurisdiction. The union says the work was supposed to be protected from being contracted out.

The union filed a grievance in December, alleging violation of the CBA and the claim then went to arbitration when the parties could not resolve the matter. In February, the union and MCCC had a hearing before Babiskin, who issued his opinion a month later, denying the grievance.

"The arbitrator’s March 8, 2018, opinion and award fails to draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement," the complaint states. "An arbitrator’s role is to conduct a fair and impartial hearing and to hear testimony, receive and weigh evidence, consider arguments and render a final and binding decision. Arbitrator Babiskin failed to comply with these mandates because he did not consider the evidence and arguments presented by the parties."

The UMWA alleges Babiskin's opinion also completely ignores the plain language of the CBA. The union is seeking an order vacating the opinion by Babiskin. It is represented by Charles F. Donnelly and Kevin Fagan, general counsel and associate general counsel for the union.

In MCCC's complaint, it states the union filed a grievance in January alleging the coal company violated the CBA when it had contract workers perform jobs like unspooling, distributing and hanging hoses, cables and data line on a monorail system that month.

That grievance was filed on behalf of Tim Gibson, a union member, who was requesting 48 hours of double time pay. A hearing was held by arbitrator Ralph H. Colflesh Jr. on April 27, and Colflesh entered an award on May 8 in which he sustained the grievance.

Although Colflesh did not award Gibson monetary relief, he did award the union the costs in preparing and presenting the grievance.

“The monetary remedy fashioned by the arbitrator was plainly improper,” MCCC’s complaint states. “Under binding arbitral precedent in the coal industry, monetary damages may only be awarded to ‘compensate the aggrieved party for losses suffered as a result of the breach of the agreement.”

MCCC argues that damages may only be paid to workers who were adversely affected. The company is seeking the award to be vacated. It is represented by Michael D. Glass of Ogletree, Deakins Nash, Smoak & Stewart.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case numbers: 1:18-cv-00126, 1:18-cv-00132

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U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Clarksburg Division United Mine Workers Of America

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