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The Ohio Valley Coal Co. v. United Mine Workers of America, International Union

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Clarksburg

September 27, 2019

THE OHIO VALLEY COAL COMPANY, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant,
v.
UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, INTERNATIONAL UNION, and UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 17], DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 18] AND VACATING ARBITRATION AWARD

          THOMAS S. KLEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court are the cross motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant The Ohio Valley Coal Company [ECF No. 17] and Defendants and Counter-Claimants the United Mine Workers of America, International Union, and United Mine Workers of America, District 31 [ECF No. 18]. The parties have fully briefed the issues presented and the matter is ripe for decision. For the reasons articulated herein, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion, DENIES Defendants’ motion and VACATES the arbitration award.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 13, 2017, Plaintiff The Ohio Valley Coal Company (“Ohio Valley”) instituted this action initially challenging an arbitration award finding the underlying grievance to be arbitrable [ECF No. 1]. Defendants United Mine Workers of America, International Union and United Mine Workers of America, District 31 (collectively hereinafter “UMWA”), filed their Answer and Counterclaim on February 5, 2018 [ECF No. 7]. Judge Keeley entered a scheduling order governing designation of a joint stipulated record and briefing on February 13, 2018 [ECF No. 9]. Ohio Valley answered the Counterclaim on February 23, 2018 [ECF No. 11]. Following the Arbitrator’s decision on the merits, Ohio Valley filed its Amended Complaint to Vacate Arbitration Award on February 26, 2018 [ECF No. 12]. Defendants filed their Answer and Amended Counterclaim on March 7, 2018 [ECF No. 13]. Ohio Valley answered the Amended Counterclaim on March 28, 2018 [ECF No. 14].

         The parties submitted their Joint Stipulation of Record on June 15, 2018 [ECF No. 15]. Thereafter, the parties timely filed cross motions for summary judgment with timely responses in opposition [ECF Nos. 17, 18, 20 and 21]. This matter was transferred to United States District Judge Thomas S. Kleeh on December 1, 2018 [ECF No. 22].

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         While the procedural history and underlying proceedings appeared to take a twisted path, the factual background of this matter is straightforward.[1] Ohio Valley formerly operated the Powhatan No. 6 Mine (“Mine”) in Belmont County, Ohio.[2] Defendant United Mine Workers of America, District 31 represented all bargaining unit employees of the Mine since it was constructed and commenced operation in 1972. The 2016 National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (“NBCWA”) governs the terms and conditions of employment for all bargaining unit employees at the Mine.

         The NBCWA provides the following regarding “Work Jurisdiction”:

The production of coal, including removal of over-burden and coal waste, preparation, processing and cleaning of coal and transportation of coal (except by waterway or rail not owned by Employer), repair and maintenance work normally performed at the mine site or at a central shop of the Employer and maintenance of gob piles and mine roads, and work of the type customarily related to all of the above shall be performed by classified Employees of the Employer covered by and in accordance with the terms of this Agreement. Contracting, subcontracting, leasing and subleasing, and construction work, as defined herein, will be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
Nothing in this section will be construed to diminish the jurisdiction, express or implied, of the United Mine Workers.

[ECF No. 15-1 at Art. IA §(a)].

         The NBCWA also provides:

All decisions of the Arbitration Review Board rendered prior to the expiration of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1978 shall continue to have precedential effect under this Agreement to the extent that the basis for such decisions have not been modified by subsequent changes in this agreement.

[ECF No. 15-1 at Art. XXIII §(k)].

         Ohio Valley and UMWA entered into a separate Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) when the NBCWA was signed. [ECF No. 15-3]. That MOU modified the terms and conditions of the parties’ relationship and Ohio Valley’s obligations under the NBCWA. That MOU establishes what constitutes the Mine as well as “coal lands” for purposes of properties, lands, reserves, operations and facilities to which the NBCWA applies.

         The Mine was in operation through exhaustion of its coal reserves with production permanently ceasing on October 16, 2016. Ohio Valley finished processing mined coal from the Mine on December 15, 2016, and it was permanently sealed on December 31, 2016. The Mine, which once employed nearly 500, was staffed by only 16 classified employees when the underlying grievance was filed. [ECF No. 12-1 at 5].

         In 2001, an unrelated subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation, American Energy Corporation, opened the Century Mine to mine a coal reserve contiguous with the Mine. Ohio Valley has no ownership interest in the Century Mine and the UMWA does not represent any employees at the Century Mine.

         On July 15, 2002, Ohio Valley and American Energy Corporation entered into a Slurry Disposal Agreement. Ohio Valley licensed rights to dispose of coal slurry materials to American Energy Corporation in the impoundment on property formerly associated with the Mine. [ECF No. 15-4 at Art. III, V]. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, American Energy Corporation retains sole responsibility for the transportation of its slurry materials to the impoundment. [Id. at Art. IV]. Ohio Valley did grant an easement and right-of-way entry onto its property for installation and maintenance of the necessary pipeline. [Id.]. American Energy continued to dispose of its slurry materials in the impoundment as of briefing in this matter.

         A. The Dispute

         The UMWA disputes the use of non-bargaining unit labor for repair and maintenance of the heavy equipment being used to maintain and increase the size of the water impoundment located on Ohio Valley’s property formerly associated with the Mine. Grievance No. 17-31-04 challenged Ohio Valley contracting out mechanical work required on a D6 Caterpillar Bulldozer. Specifically, the grievance stated

On 03-09-17 Company violated ART. 1a sec g-2 XXVI sec. b and other pertinent provisions of the contract. Company has dozer taken out for repair 6 m[.] This is our work we have always done [.] Asking to be made whole in all matters ...

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