Miners settle age discrimination case against Massey

October 30, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.

This announced today by the United Mine Workers of America union:

More than 200 miners over the age of 40, including 82 members of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local Union 8843, who applied for work at a West Virginia mine operated by a subsidiary of Massey Energy will share an $8.75 million settlement of an age discrimination class action suit they filed against the company and its CEO, Don Blankenship, in 2006.

The miners applied for employment at Massey subsidiary Spartan Mining Company’s Mammoth mine, formerly known as the Cannelton mine, in eastern Kanawha County between September 1, 2004 and August 31, 2006. All were denied employment. The mine had been acquired by Massey after the bankruptcy of the previous owners, Horizon Natural Resources.

This is the same mine where the National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB) recently ruled that Spartan Mining illegally discriminated against 82 UMWA members by refusing to hire them because of their union membership status.

“This settlement highlights yet again the treacherous and backhanded manner Massey treated the miners who had worked at the Cannelton mine for decades,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “While it was discriminating against these experienced miners because of their age or union status, the company was at the same time publicly crying about the lack of experienced miners in the coalfields.

“But it wasn’t that Massey couldn’t find experienced miners,” Roberts said. “They were there all along and wanted to work. It was that the company would rather break the law than allow its employees to have a strong voice at work and the tremendous benefits of a union contract.”

The age discrimination class action suit was brought on behalf of the miners by the Grubb Law Group of Charleston, W. Va. Judge Paul M. Blake of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Fayette County, W. Va. gave final approval of the settlement agreement after a hearing today.

    The 82 members of the class who are also claimants in the NLRB case will receive cash awards of $38,000. Members of the class who were not members of the bargaining unit case or are not claimants in the NLRB case will receive cash awards of $19,000.

Updated, 6 p.m: Here’s what Massey had to say — 

JULIAN, W.Va., – Massey Energy’s insurer has negotiated the settlement of a class action lawsuit (Crawford v. Spartan et al.), the company announced today.   Trial lawyers will receive $3 million of the $8.75 million settlement of the suit, which is approximately 34 percent of the total amount. The remainder of the settlement funds will be divided by an estimated 231 class members.  The settlement will be almost entirely paid by Massey’s insurer, with a minor contribution by Massey.

 “Our insurer decided it was best to settle this case outside the West Virginia court system, which has been friendly to class action lawsuits,” said Don Blankenship, chairman and CEO of Massey Energy Company.  “We believe the suit was without merit, but understand our insurer’s reluctance to proceed to trial in West Virginia.”

West Virginia’s legal climate has consistently been rated as one of the worst in the nation.

The suit alleged hiring discrimination by a Massey subsidiary.  Notably, the Company offered jobs to a large number of the plaintiffs alleging discrimination, but only nine job offers were accepted.

“It appears that the purpose of this case was to enrich trial lawyers,” said Massey Energy General Counsel Shane Harvey.

3 Responses to “Miners settle age discrimination case against Massey”

  1. Phil Smith says:

    Ken:

    Just to be clear, this suit was not brought by the UMWA. It was brought by individual miners who formed a class. Among those miners were the 82 miners who were also discriminated against by Massey for their union membership status, as ruled by the NLRB.

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