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Local 1545 v. Inland Steel Coal Co.

decided: June 5, 1989.

LOCAL 1545, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
INLAND STEEL COAL COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, AND CONSOLIDATION COAL COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Benton Division. No. 87 C 4036, James L. Foreman, Chief Judge.

Wood, Jr., and Ripple, Circuit Judges, and Eschbach, Senior Circuit Judge.

Author: Eschbach

ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judge

Plaintiff-Appellant Local 1545, United Mine Workers of America ("union") filed this action in federal district court pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, seeking to enforce two labor arbitration awards between it and defendants-appellees Consolidation Coal Company ("Consolidation") and Inland Steel Coal Company ("Inland Steel"). The district court denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment but granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. In granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the court held that the issue of whether the court should give prospective effect to prior arbitration awards was dispositive of the lawsuit. Concluding that it could not state "with positive assurance" that the awards were intended to apply prospectively, the court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment.

From the denial of its motion and the court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, the union now appeals. We will address the following two issues: (1) Whether the court erred in refusing to specifically enforce the arbitration awards between the union and the defendants, and (2) whether the court erred in granting defendants motion for summary judgment because there are genuine issues of material fact. For the reasons set out below, we affirm the denial of the union's motion for summary judgment and the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

I.

The union, Inland Steel, and Consolidation have been and are parties to the National Bituminous Wage Agreements ("Agreement(s)") of 1974, 1978, 1981, and 1984. The union, a voluntary unincorporated labor organization, is the authorized collective bargaining representative for certain classified employees at what is now known as Consolidation's Rend Lake Mine in Sesser, Illinois. The Agreements establish the wages, hours, terms, and conditions of employment for Consolidation's employees at the mine who are represented by the union. The Agreements also contain a mandatory grievance arbitration clause providing for the final and binding resolution of disputes as defined in the Agreement.*fn1

On May 12, 1977, the union filed a grievance contending that Inland Steel violated the 1974 Agreement on April 25, 1977, when it sent B shift workers home early although the plant was running and "dead work"*fn2 was available. The union argued that Inland Steel violated prior practice and custom at the mine and thereby violated Article XXVI(b) of the Agreement. Article XXVI(b) of the Agreement provides, "[except] where abolished by mutual agreement of the parties, all prior practice and custom not in conflict with this Agreement shall be continued. . . ." Plaintiff's Complaint, Rec. 1, Exhibit B (Inland Steel's Post-Hearing Brief at 2).

In a decision and award issued September 2, 1978, Arbitrator Gibson concluded that Inland Steel violated the established practice contrary to Article XXVI(b) of the 1974 Agreement by sending the miners home early. He specifically concluded that the evidence showed that "the Employer has always kept the miners working, whether mining coal or not, for the balance of the shift if the processing plant was in operation." Plaintiff's Complaint, Rec. 1, Exhibit B (Arbitrator Gibson's Decision at 7). Therefore, the arbitrator ordered the company to pay 3 1/2 straight time hours to all B shift miners who were sent home early.

Subsequently, the union filed another grievance when B turn employees were denied the right to work on February 11, 1982, because the silos were full and there had been a railroad derailment although "dead work" was available. In its grievance, the union stated, "[For] the failure of Management to comply with the Arbitrators award [sic] in case 12-77-360 the Union requests a Cease and Desist order be issued for Managements failure [sic] to have the underground Employees at work." Plaintiff's Complaint, Rec. 1, Exhibit B (Arbitrator Sabella's Decision at 2). The union also alleged that the company was in violation of the established past practice provision in the 1981 Wage Agreement.

In his decision and award issued July 19, 1982, Arbitrator Sabella sustained the union's grievance. Specifically relying on Arbitrator Gibson's decision in the 1978 dispute, Sabella concluded "[in] the light of the foregoing I am constrained to find that the practice and custom found by Arbitrator Gibson is valid and subsisting and accordingly binding on the parties." Id. at 5. Sabella then awarded the workers four hours pay at the straight time rate, but did not grant a cease and desist order.

On November 15, 1986, Consolidation purchased the Rend Lake Mine from Inland Steel. According to Article I of the 1984 Agreement and the Stock Purchase Agreement between Consolidation and Inland Steel, Consolidation agreed to assume all of Inland Steel's obligations under the labor agreement.*fn3 On January 16, 1987, the instant dispute arose between the union and Consolidation when the company allegedly sent underground employees home mid-shift although "dead work" was available and the coal processing plant was operating.

Subsequently, on February 9, 1987, the union filed a complaint in federal district court against defendants Inland Steel and Consolidation seeking specific enforcement of the Gibson and Sabella awards. The union does not allege that Inland Steel failed to comply with the terms of the Gibson and Sabella awards. The union never disputes the fact that the defendants paid the workers their appropriate back pay as provided for in the awards. Rather, the complaint is that there is a failure to comply with the awards in this subsequent dispute.

On April 28, 1987, the court set a briefing schedule on cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed its motion for summary judgment against defendants on December 15, 1987, and defendants filed their cross-motion for summary judgment on January 28, 1988. The district court, on April 18, 1988, held oral argument on these motions. At argument, plaintiff was granted leave to file affidavits in support of its action to enforce the awards, which were filed with the court on May 5, 1988. On May 10, 1988, the court entered its judgment denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granting defendants' cross-motion.*fn4 In granting defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment, the court concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact because the legal issue of whether the awards were intended to apply prospectively was dispositive of the action. The court further held that the defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the court could not "say with positive assurance that the awards were intended to cover the present dispute. ...


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