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AMAX Coal Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

decided as amended february 12 1980.: February 1, 1980.



Before Gibbons*fn* and Higginbotham, Circuit Judges and Ziegler, District Judge.*fn**

Author: Higginbotham


This case is before the Court upon the petitions of Amax Coal Company, a division of Amax, Inc., (Amax or the Company) and the United Mine Workers of America (the Union or UMWA) to review an order of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board). The Board found that the Union violated the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq., (the Act) by threatening to strike and by striking to coerce Amax into bargaining through a multi-employer group; by refusing to meet and bargain separately with Amax before February 3, 1975; by striking without first notifying the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service about its dispute with Amax; by bargaining to impasse and striking in support of its demands that the Company agree to six contract clauses in violation of Section 8(e) of the Act. 29 U.S.C. § 158(e). The Board also found that the Union did not violate the Act by bargaining to impasse upon several other clauses that the General Counsel had alleged to be nonmandatory or unlawful, and that neither party had engaged in overall bad faith bargaining. Finally, the Board declined to decide whether the Union had violated the Act by insisting upon several other contract clause proposals because the violations had not been alleged in the complaint. The Company has intervened in the proceeding initiated by the Union; the Union has intervened in the proceeding initiated by the Company; and the Board has filed a cross-application for enforcement of its order. The cases have been consolidated for the purposes of briefing and argument.

Because we hold that the management trustee of this Union's pension and welfare fund is a collective bargaining representative within the meaning of Section 8(b)(1)(B), we conclude that the Union violated the Act by striking to obtain Amax's participation in the fund whose management trustee is not selected by Amax. We also conclude that the Union bargained to impasse on two clauses that were not mandatory subjects of bargaining. Accordingly, the Company's petition for review will be granted and the Board's cross-application for enforcement of its order will be denied insofar as they relate to the trust fund representatives and to the "enabling" and "coal lands" clauses. The Union's petition for review will be denied.


Amax Coal Company, a division of Amax, Inc., is in the business of operating coal mines, primarily bituminous coal mines in the midwestern United States. It bargains with the United Mine Workers of America (the Union or the UMWA) for its midwestern mines as a member of the Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA). In 1972, Amax opened the Belle Ayr Mine in Gillette, Wyoming, its first sub-bituminous surface mine, and agreed to a contract with the Union covering that mine. The contract contained most of the same terms as the national BCOA contract. The BCOA contract, and the similar contracts signed by the western surface mines, were scheduled to terminate on November 12, 1974.

In 1974, the Union decided to seek contract terms for the western mines that would depart significantly from the BCOA's present contract terms. The Union proposed that a multi-employer bargaining group be formed by the western mining companies. Those companies that agreed to bargain through a multi-employer association were to be granted sixty day extensions of their contracts. Amax's request for this sixty day extension was rejected by the Union. Additionally, the Union made clear that it viewed Amax as a member of the multi-employer bargaining association and warned that "(i)f you don't get into this association, you are going to have problems everywhere. You know how coal miners are." App., at 38a. Amax thereafter filed the initial unfair labor practice charge in this case alleging, inter alia, that the Union's refusal to bargain separately with Amax violated the Act.

Amax made two more unsuccessful attempts to initiate bargaining with the Union. On January 11, Amax negotiators hand-delivered a new contract offer to UMWA's General Counsel Joseph Yablonski in a last minute effort to avoid the strike scheduled for the next day. Yablonski refused even to meet with them and, on January 12, the Union struck Amax and the other western mines as scheduled. On January 18, Amax sent the Union a telegram requesting negotiations; this request was ignored. Upon learning that the Board's General Counsel intended to seek an injunction against the Union's conduct, Yablonski agreed to meet separately with Amax and to submit to Amax the new contract proposal that the Union had prepared for its other negotiations.*fn1

The parties held eight negotiating sessions between February 3 and February 18. Although they reached tentative agreements on more than forty items included in the Union's proposal and the Union agreed to accommodate Amax on several items, the parties remained far apart on many basic issues. Three more unsuccessful meetings were held between February 26 and March 7.*fn2

On March 14, Elkins Payne, Amax's Vice-President, and Daniel Gruender, Amax's attorney, met with Daniel Edelman, the Union's negotiator, and presented him with a complete contract proposal, which Payne stated was Amax's final offer.*fn3 Payne stated that this was a package proposal, and that the Union must either accept or reject the entire package. He also emphasized that unless the Union agreed to accept the entire final proposal by the close of the business day on March 17 Amax would consider the proposal rejected and would proceed to implement its terms.

The Union's bargaining council did not begin considering Amax's proposal until the afternoon of March 17 and had not reached a final decision by the end of the day. Amax considered the Union's failure to accept the proposal as a rejection. Within the next week, the Belle Ayr Mine was again in operation under the terms of Amax's final proposal. On April 11, the Union formally rejected Amax's proposal.

The parties had only one negotiating session during the three months following Amax's implementation of its final proposal. Although all of the major issues were discussed during this meeting on May 28, no progress was made.*fn4 Neither party made any concessions.

Following an unofficial discussion in June with Amax Vice-President Roger Sonnemann, Yablonski submitted a new contract proposal to the Company on July 1, that contained concessions in almost every area of dispute. The new proposal did not, however, compromise the Union's position on the termination date, the pension and welfare funds, or the reinstatement of strikers.

On July 17, Yablonski sent a telegram to Amax Board Chairman Ian MacGregor with a copy to Payne, expressing his frustration at having heard nothing from Amax's negotiators since he had submitted the new contract proposal. The telegram further stated that if no agreement was reached by July 22, the date set for an Amax stockholders meeting, the Union intended to file antitrust charges against Amax with the Federal Trade Commission. Payne agreed to meet with Yablonski on July 21.

Little was accomplished at the negotiations on July 21 and 22. Amax continued to reject all but a few relatively minor items in the Union's new proposal. On the afternoon of July 22, the Union filed charges with the FTC; Union representatives also picketed Amax's stockholders meeting and voiced their complaints about the negotiations during the meeting. Although negotiations resumed on August 7 and 8, they again proved unproductive. On August 18 and 19 Yablonski and Payne exchanged telegrams accusing each other of responsibility for the negotiating deadlock.

Negotiations continued sporadically through the fall and winter of 1975. On November 14 the Union made a new contract offer containing more concessions. The parties made no progress toward an agreement, however, and negotiations ended in February, 1976 amid reciprocal accusations of bad faith.


A. Coercion of Amax to Join the Peabody Group

Section 8(b)(1)(B) makes it an unfair labor practice for a union "to restrain or coerce . . . an employer in the selection of his representatives for the purposes of collective bargaining . . .." 29 U.S.C. § 158(b)(1)(B). The Board found that "by attempting to compel (Amax) to relinquish its right to negotiate independently and instead negotiate through a multi-employer association, the Union engaged in a classic example of the type of conduct which Congress sought to proscribe in enacting Section 8(b)(1)(B) of the Act." 238 N.L.R.B. No. 214 at 12-13. (footnote omitted). Substantial evidence supports this conclusion.

On November 2, 1974, Arnold Miller, the Union's President, sent identical letters to each of the twelve western mining companies whose employees were represented by the Union, explaining the Union's new approach to western bargaining and proposing that the mining companies execute "a single successor Sub-bituminous and Lignite Agreement." App., at 353a(iii). The letters also stated, "Contingent upon your assent to our proposal, the UMWA offers to extend the present Agreement with your company for a period of sixty days beyond November 12, 1974." Id.

On November 6, Hollie Hopper, Amax's President, responded that Amax would be unable to bargain with the Union until the Board disposed of a representation petition at the Belle Ayr Mine filed by another union. A few days later, Amax Vice President Payne telephoned Miller's assistant, Ed James, to confirm this position. Payne told James that Amax preferred to bargain independently for the Belle Ayr Mine, and asked whether it could receive the sixty day contract extension without joining the multi-employer group. James replied that unless Amax joined the employer association it would not get the two months extension; but he promised to look into the possibility of extending Amax's contract until after the pending representation election. The Union subsequently notified Amax that it would extend the contract thirty days, to December 12.

On November 23, the day after the UMWA won the representation election at the Belle Ayr Mine, Payne drafted a letter to the Union, for Hopper's signature, to explain the conditions under which Amax would consider joining the multi-employer association, the Peabody Group.*fn5 However, because he felt he could better explain in person his concerns over the amount of influence Amax would exert within the Peabody Group, Payne arranged for a meeting with Union officials instead of mailing the letter.

On November 25, Payne and Hopper met with James and UMWA's General Counsel, Yablonski. Payne explained that Amax was reluctant to join the Peabody Group because it felt that the Group's voting procedures were unfair to it.*fn6 At the end of the meeting Payne said that after Amax discusses its problems with the Peabody Group it would notify the Union whether or not it would join the Peabody Group. Later that day, Payne mailed the letter he had drafted on November 23, without changing the date on the letter. The letter stated that Amax was "considering participation" in the Peabody Group, and requested that Miller sign and return a copy of the letter thus indicating his agreement with the following three conditions: another extension of Amax's contract to January 12, 1975; an individually executed contract covering only the Belle Ayr unit; and the retention of Amax's right to bargain independently in the future. App., at 362a-63a. The letter stated further that after Miller's confirmation was received, Amax would contact the Peabody Group in order to "resolve any other problems" relating to Amax joining the Group. After signing the November 23 letter, Miller telegraphed Amax that he had signed the "letter of agreement" and was extending Amax's contract to January 12, 1975.

After receiving Miller's telegram, Payne informed Yablonski that Amax had been unable to come to terms with the Peabody Group and thus intended to bargain separately for the Belle Ayr Mine. The Company and Union representatives then discussed their respective contract objectives, and Amax agreed to provide information requested by the Union. At the conclusion of the meeting, Amax Vice President Sonnemann reiterated Amax's decision to bargain independently. Yablonski acknowledged this statement by nodding his head.

Payne wrote to Yablonski the next day confirming the tentative arrangements made at the meeting concerning the upcoming negotiations for the Belle Ayr Mine. Having received no reply to his letter, Payne phoned Yablonski on December 30 and was informed that Yablonski considered Amax to be a member of the Peabody Group.*fn7 Payne immediately telegraphed Yablonski that Amax intended to "bargain with the UMWA for the Belle Ayr Mine operation independently." App., at 368a.

On January 6, 1975, a UMWA delegation headed by International Vice President Michael Trbovich met with Amax's bargaining team. Each party's proposal differed substantially from the others' and each sought significant changes from the terms of the 1971 contract. After discussing the Union proposal, the meeting adjourned.

James Marketti, Director of western organizing for the Union, opened the January 7 meeting by announcing that the Union would not negotiate a separate contract for the Belle Ayr Mine and that they were meeting separately with Amax for informational purposes only and not to negotiate. He stated that Amax would be bound by any contract executed by the Peabody Group. An argument on this question ensued, after which the parties agreed to review Amax's proposals without waiving their positions on bargaining. At the end of the meeting, Marketti stated that the Union would strike Amax when the contract extension expired January 12 unless the Union reached agreement with the Peabody Group, and he warned Payne, "If you don't get into this association, you are going to have problems everywhere. You know how coal miners are." In response to an inquiry whether this was a threat to strike Amax's midwestern mines, Trbovich stated, "You know exactly what we are talking about." App., at 38a, 64a. On January 8, Yablonski confirmed by letter the Union's refusal to bargain separately with Amax stating:

The UMWA expressly and unequivocally rejects your purported withdrawal from the Peabody Group, and we expect you to be bound by any agreement ...

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