United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Bluefield
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, et al., Plaintiffs,
CONSOL ENERGY, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. Faber Senior United States District Judge.
dust has settled after a preliminary injunction was entered,
an arbitration decision rendered, and this court's
preliminary injunction order appealed. Now, International
Union, United Mine Workers of America (“UMWA”)
and retired coal miners (collectively
“Plaintiffs”) seek to amend their complaint for a
second time. ECF No. 67-3. For good cause shown, the court
GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion for leave to
file a Second Amended Complaint.
dispute centers on whether the defendant, CONSOL Energy,
Inc., can unilaterally change the health care benefits
contractually negotiated with UMWA under the 2011 National
Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (“NBCWA”). This
2011 NBCWA, like its predecessor agreements, included an
“Employer Plan” guaranteeing lifetime health care
benefits for its eligible retirees. ECF No. 16 at
¶¶ 20-30. In order to ensure uniformity and resolve
disputes, the parties to the 2011 NCBWA (and earlier NCWBAs)
established a Resolution of Dispute procedure. This
Resolution of Dispute procedure conferred power upon four
Trustees to issue opinions arising from disputes that are
binding upon the parties. Id.
March and May 2016, CONSOL transmitted three (3) letters to
retiree participants in the Employer Plan, indicating its
intent to no longer offer lifetime health care benefits.
Id. at ¶¶ 35-38. Each of these letters was
written on CONSOL letterhead. CONSOL later announced that it
would offer to fund health savings accounts for retiree
participants instead. See id. at ¶ 3.
November 2016, UMWA filed a Resolution of Dispute on behalf
of a retiree. In its complaint, the UMWA requested a
determination as to whether CONSOL may “implement any
unilateral changes or modifications of the benefits provided
by its plan, either during the term of the 2011 NBCWA or
following its termination.” See ECF No. 1, Ex.
D. UMWA also requested that the opinion of the Trustees
require CONSOL to “notify its retirees that it cannot
make any changes in their benefits without the agreement of
the UMWA.” See id. CONSOL and UMWA also
engaged in communications after the retirees' receipt of
CONSOL's letters, but the parties were unable to reach an
December 23, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint for
Injunctive Relief against CONSOL Energy, Inc., requesting
injunctive relief under Section 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). ECF No. 1. Less than
a month later, Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary
injunction, seeking to enjoin CONSOL from taking action to
change the benefits available under the Employer Plan until
the completion of the Resolution of Dispute process. ECF No.
a hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction, CONSOL
filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. ECF No.
13. In an effort to circumvent this jurisdictional argument,
Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint naming as defendants
four (4) CONSOL subsidiaries: Helvetia Coal Company, Island
Creek Coal Company, Laurel Run Mining Company, and CONSOL
Amonate Facility, LLC (collectively “CONSOL's
Subsidiaries”). See ECF No. 16.
February 1, 2017, the court heard oral argument on
Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Among
other arguments, Defendants alleged a lack of personal
jurisdiction over CONSOL's Subsidiaries. In the midst of
the parties' post-hearing briefs, Plaintiffs again sought
leave of court to file a Second Amended Complaint to correct
these jurisdictional defects. ECF No. 44. Specifically,
Plaintiffs attempted to add three (3) causes of action for
alleged violations of the Employer Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), § 2 et seq.,
29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., because the statute
provides for nationwide service of process. See 29
U.S.C. 1132(e)(2). Defendants opposed the amendment for
essentially the same reasons as stated in the instant motion.
See ECF No. 48.
March 17, 2017, the court granted Plaintiffs' motion for
a preliminary injunction, enjoining and prohibiting CONSOL:
(1) From terminating, changing or replacing the 2011 [NCWBA
Employer Plan], which is presently providing health care
coverage to retired miners, pending the results of the
arbitration now underway and the further order of this court;
and (2) From communicating further in any way with
participants and beneficiaries of the Employer Plan informing
them of termination, replacement or changes to the Employer
ECF No. 51. The court also concluded that even though
CONSOL's Subsidiaries were signatories to the 2011 NBCWA,
CONSOL Energy is the corporate parent . . . the agent of
Defendant subsidiaries, none of which have employees or other
personnel to make any significant operational or
administrative decisions or exercise control over the
Employer plan independent of Defendant CONSOL . . . As such,
the court concludes that Defendant CONSOL Energy is the real
party in interest and is subject to the court's power to
issue an injunction.
ECF No. 50 at p.11. With this in mind, the court determined
that CONSOL was bound by the 2011 NCBWA and subject to the
pending Resolution of Dispute. See ECF No. 51.
CONSOL's jurisdictional defenses, the court concluded
that it had personal jurisdiction over CONSOL. ECF No. 50, at
p.9. On the other hand, the court determined that there was
no personal jurisdiction over CONSOL's Subsidiaries
because there existed only attenuated contacts with West
Virginia and the Southern District of West Virginia.
Id. at p.10. Accordingly, the court dismissed
CONSOL's Subsidiaries from the action. Id. at
October 31, 2017, the Resolution of Dispute Opinion was
issued in favor of Plaintiffs. ECF No. 67-1.
Jurisdictionally, the Opinion determined that CONSOL was
bound by the 2011 NBCWA. Id. at p.9. On the merits,
the Opinion held that CONSOL may not modify or change the
existing Employer Plan, unless by joint agreement with the
UMWA. Id. Therefore, because “[n]o agreement
with the [UMWA] has been reached for replacing the [Employee
Benefits Plan] with Health Reimbursement Accounts], ”
CONSOL has no authority to make such changes unilaterally.
Id. at pp. 6-7.
same day and with this favorable Opinion in hand, Plaintiffs
returned to this court seeking to file a ...