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United Mine Workers of America International Union v. Monongalia County Coal Co.

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

August 8, 2019

UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA INTERNATIONAL UNION and UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL UNION 1702, Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants,
v.
THE MONONGALIA COUNTY COAL COMPANY, Defendant/Counter-Claimant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 12] AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 11]

          THOMAS S. KLEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment filed by the United Mine Workers of America, International Union, and the United Mine Workers of America, Local Union 1702 (together, the “Union” or “Plaintiffs”), and the Monongalia County Coal Company (“Defendant”). For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Plaintiffs' motion and grants Defendant's motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 4, 2018, Plaintiffs brought this action against Defendant, seeking to vacate an arbitration award. The Honorable Irene M. Keeley, United States District Judge, ordered the parties to submit a joint stipulated record, cross motions for summary judgment, and response briefs. Defendant filed an Answer and counterclaim against Plaintiffs. The case was transferred to the Honorable Thomas S. Kleeh, United States District Judge, on December 1, 2018. The parties have filed their cross motions for summary judgment, which are now ripe for consideration.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant operates the Monongalia County Mine, an underground coal mine in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 4. Plaintiffs represent Defendant's bargaining unit employees for purposes of collective bargaining. Id. ¶ 3. The collective bargaining agreement that governs this relationship is the 2016 National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (“NBCWA”). Id. ¶ 5. The NBCWA establishes work jurisdiction of union-represented employees and provides restrictions on Defendant's ability to contract out this work. Id. ¶ 6.

         The dispute at issue involves work performed at the Monongalia County Mine on November 12, 2017. Id. ¶ 9. On that day, Defendant used non-bargaining unit personnel to perform repair and maintenance work at the mine. Id. On December 6, 2017, the Union filed a grievance, alleging that Defendant violated Article IA of the NBCWA because the work performed by contractors was reserved for bargaining unit employees. Id. ¶ 10. The Union sought “lost wages for 11/11/17 and [for] this practice to cease and [to] be made whole in all ways.” Id.

         On February 8, 2018, the parties had a hearing before Arbitrator William A. Babiskin (the “Arbitrator”). Id. ¶ 11. In his award, the Arbitrator discusses general principles of contract interpretation. ECF No. 1-1 at 3-4. He also discusses, generally, that employers retain managerial rights under the NBCWA, including the right to schedule work. Id. at 4. The Arbitrator found that because there was no monetary loss by the grievants, “there [was] nothing to be remedied” and, therefore, denied the grievance. Id. at 6. The Arbitrator chose not to address the substantive issue of whether a violation occurred, finding it unnecessary because the lack of monetary loss meant that there would be no award. Id. at 5. Specifically, the Arbitrator wrote that he “strongly believe[s] in the principle of ‘no harm, no foul, '” and that “[i]t is not necessary to decide the issues raised by the parties as there was no financial loss to the employees in this case.” Id.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The nonmoving party must “make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof.” Id. at 317-18. Summary judgment is proper “[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there [being] no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         IV. GOVERNING LAW

         This Court may review labor arbitrators' decisions under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185, but this power of review is “extremely limited.” Cannelton Indus., Inc. v. Dist. 17, UMWA, 951 F.2d 591, 593 (4th Cir. 1991). This is because “[t]he parties to a collective bargaining agreement bargained for the arbitrator's interpretation, and ‘so far as the arbitrator's decision concerns construction of the contract, the courts have no business overruling him because their interpretation . . . is different from his.'” Island Creek Coal Co. v. Dist. 28, UMWA, 29 F.3d 126, 129 (4th Cir. 1994) (citing United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 599 (1960)). The Supreme Court of the United States, in the “Steelworkers Trilogy, ”[1]has “emphasized that federal courts should refuse to review the merits of an arbitration award under a collective bargaining agreement.” Mutual Mining, Inc. v. Dist. 17, UMWA, 47 F.3d 1165, at *2 (4th Cir. 1995) (unpublished). Both an arbitrator's findings of fact and interpretation of the law are accorded great deference. Upshur Coals Corp. v. UMWA, Dist. 31, 933 F.2d 225, 229 (4th Cir. 1991). In addition, “[t]he selection of remedies is almost exclusively within the arbitrator's domain.” Cannelton, 951 F.2d at 593-54 (citing United Paperworkers Int'l Union v. Misco, 484 U.S. 29 (1987)).

         Still, there are some limitations on arbitration awards. The award “must draw its essence from the contract and cannot simply reflect the arbitrator's own notions of industrial justice.” Misco, 484 U.S. at 38. In addition, an arbitrator may not “impose a punitive award or punitive damages” unless a provision in the collective bargaining agreement provides for them. Island Creek, 29 F.3d at 129 (citing Cannelton, 951 F.2d at 594). In deciding whether an award is punitive or whether it draws its essence from the agreement, courts should be mindful that arbitrators “need not give their reasons for an award, ” but courts may rely on arbitrators' reasoning to determine whether the arbitrator has applied “his own brand of industrial justice.” Cannelton, 951 F.2d at 594.

         In reviewing arbitration awards, courts “must be concerned not to broaden the scope of judicial review of arbitration decisions nor to lengthen a process that is intended to resolve labor disputes quickly.” Id. at 595; see also Upshur Coals Corp., 933 F.2d at 231 (writing that “[l]abor arbitration serves the important goal of providing swift resolution to contractual disputes”). “[A]s long as the arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority, that a court is convinced he committed serious error does not ...


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