Coal Tattoo

NLRB to Massey: Rehire union mine workers

Breaking news just in from the United Mine Workers of America union:

The National Labor Relations Board has affirmed a decision that Massey Energy must rehire 85 coal miners who alleged they were illegally discriminated against because of their union affiliation.

The full NRLB decision concerning Massey subsidiary Mammoth Coal is posted here, and this is what UMWA President Cecil Roberts had to say  this morning about it:

This tremendous victory affirms what we have been saying all along. Mammoth Coal had an obligation to recognize the union when it bought this mine out of bankruptcy, and it had an obligation to rehire the miners who were working there at the time.

We’ve covered this issue before in Coal Tattoo, so check out the post, 4th Circuit backs ruling against Massey in Mammoth case.

In short, the background:

For decades, union members mined and processed coal at Cannelton operations southeast of Charleston. In August 2004, Massey bought the operations out of the Horizon Natural Resources bankruptcy, after a federal bankruptcy judge agreed to throw out a clause of Horizon’s contract with the UMW that required any buyers to maintain the union work agreement.

But in a November ruling, NLRB judge Paul Bogas concluded the bankruptcy court ruling alone did not insulate Massey from an obligation to bargain collectively with workers. The legal test, the judge explained, is whether Massey conducts essentially the same business as the previous owner and whether a majority of the work force are former employees of the previous owner.

Previously, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin upheld the ruling by Judge Bogas.  But the judge had ordered Massey to both offer UMWA members their jobs back, and to bargain in good faith with the union. Goodwin issued a temporary order that required Massey to offer workers their jobs back, but did not implement the requirement that the company bargain with the workers toward a union contract. The 4th Circuit upheld Goodwin’s ruling.

But Massey was still appealing the rest of the NLRB judge’s decision, and that case had not yet — until this week — been decided by the full NLRB.

The full text of the UMWA’s news release on the NLRB ruling is here.

Updated: Massey issued this statement in response to the NLRB ruling — 

“We did not discriminate in our hiring and plan to appeal this decision,” said Don L. Blankenship, Massey Chairman & CEO. “The allegations against us are simply part of an effort to undermine the bankruptcy court’s ruling that these properties were to be sold free and clear of prior obligations. Such efforts discourage would-be-employers from trying to acquire and turn around failing businesses.”

Mammoth Coal Company employs over 270 people and notes that it did offer jobs to a large number of miners who claim discrimination, but only nine job offers were accepted.