Appeals court upholds union worker decision

THE US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has upheld an earlier decision that Massey Energy’s non-union Mammoth Coal subsidiary offer jobs to union workers.

Donna Schmidt

Back in 2004 Massey purchased the West Virginia-based Mammoth mine during the previous owner’s bankruptcy proceedings.

According to the West Virginia Record, Massey had denied interviews to former mine workers who were union members when hiring to restart the operation for December that year.

The legal journal reported on the appeals court discussion, which included suggestions Massey had instead filled vacant positions with inexperienced trainees and non-union employees from its own nearby facilities, despite labour shortages.

In June 2005, the United Mine Workers of America filed an unfair labour charge with the National Labor Relations Board, and administrative law judge Paul Bogas in subsequent proceedings found that Mammoth had violated several NLRB regulations.

The judge handed down the recommendation that Mammoth offer employment to those 85 union workers listed as “discriminatees” immediately and provide them with back pay. The complex was also asked to recognise and bargain with the UMWA.

Shortly after, the NLRB filed documentation with the US District Court to force Mammoth to comply with the ruling, pending the conclusion of those proceedings.

In August 2008 US District Judge Joseph Goodwin granted the petition, but only with regards to Mammoth’s employment offer to union members. In October Massey rehired 51 of the workers who accepted the offer to return.

Massey released comment to ILN on Monday.

“Although we disagree with the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, it is important to note while appealing US district judge Joseph Goodwin’s decision requiring Mammoth Coal Company to hire these individuals, Mammoth Coal made job offers to these 85 miners,” spokesperson Jeff Gillenwater said.

“From these 85 extended offers of employment, only nine miners accepted the employment opportunity. Today, seven of these miners remain with the company.”

UMWA international president Cecil Roberts said the union was pleased with the circuit court’s decision.

"We look forward to the day when miners who were illegally discriminated against get their rightful jobs back, and to all the miners at the Mammoth mine having the benefit and protection of working under a UMWA contract."