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HITCHMEN COAL & COKE COMPANY v. MITCHELL

December 10, 1917

HITCHMEN COAL & COKE COMPANY
v.
MITCHELL, INDIVIDUALLY, ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Pitney

[ 245 U.S. Page 232]

 MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.

This was a suit in equity, commenced October 24, 1907, in the United States Circuit (afterwards District) Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, by the Hitchman Coal & Coke Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of West Virginia, against certain citizens of the State of Ohio, sued individually and also as officers of the United Mine Workers of America. Other non-citizens of plaintiff's State were named as defendants but not served with process. Those who were served and who answered the bill were T. L. Lewis, Vice President of the U.M.W.A. and of the International Union U.M.W.A.; William Green, D. H. Sullivan, and "George" W. Savage, (his correct Christian name is Gwilym), respectively President, Vice President, and Secretary-Treasurer of District No. 6, U.M.W.A.; and A. R. Watkins, John Zelenka, and Lee Rankin, respectively President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of Sub-district No. 5 of District No. 6.

[ 245 U.S. Page 233]

     Plaintiff owns about 5,000 acres of coal lands situate at or near Benwood, in Marshall County, West Virginia, and within what is known as the "Pan Handle District" of that State, and operates a coal mine thereon, employing between 200 and 300 men, and having an annual output, in and before 1907, of about 300,000 tons. At the time of the filing of the bill, and for a considerable time before and ever since, it operated its mine "non-union," under an agreement with its men to the effect that the mine should be run on a non-union basis, that the employees should not become connected with the Union while employed by plaintiff, and that if they joined it their employment with plaintiff should cease. The bill set forth these facts, inter alia, alleged that they were known to defendants and each of them, and "that the said defendants have unlawfully and maliciously agreed together, confederated, combined and formed themselves into a conspiracy, the purpose of which they are proceeding to carry out and are now about to finally accomplish, namely: to cause your orator's mine to be shut down, its plant to remain idle, its contracts to be broken and unfulfilled, until such time as your orator shall submit to the demand of the Union that it shall unionize its plant, and having submitted to such demand unionize its plant by employing only union men who shall become subject to the orders of the Union," etc. The general object of the bill was to obtain an injunction to restrain defendants from interfering with the relations existing between plaintiff and its employees in order to compel plaintiff to "unionize" the mine.

A restraining order having been granted, followed by a temporary injunction, the served defendants filed answers, and thereupon made a motion to modify the injunction, which was refused. 172 Fed. Rep. 963. An appeal taken by defendants from this order was dismissed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 176 Fed. Rep. 549. Afterwards

[ 245 U.S. Page 234]

     they applied for and obtained leave to withdraw their answers and file others; the order, however, prescribed that the withdrawn answers were "not to be removed from the file." The new answers denied all material averments of the bill, some of which had been admitted in the former answers. Plaintiff, having filed replications, obtained an order that the former answers should be treated as evidence on behalf of the plaintiff upon the issue joined. Upon this evidence and other evidence introduced before the court orally, the case was submitted, with the result that a final decree was made January 18, 1913, granting a perpetual injunction. 202 Fed. Rep. 512. This was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals June 1, 1914 (214 Fed. Rep. 685), but the mandate was stayed pending an application to this court for a writ of certiorari. Afterwards an appeal was allowed. This court dismissed the appeal, but granted the writ of certiorari (241 U.S. 644), the record on appeal to stand as a return.

The final decree of the District Court included an award of injunction against John Mitchell, W. B. Wilson, and Thomas Hughes, who while named as defendants in the bill were not served with process and entered no appearance except to object to the jurisdiction of the court over them. Under the federal practice, the appearance to object did not bind these parties to submit to the jurisdiction on the overruling of the objection (Harkness v. Hyde, 98 U.S. 476, 479; Southern Pacific Co. v. Denton, 146 U.S. 202, 206; Mexican Central Ry. Co. v. Pinkney, 149 U.S. 194, 209; Goldey v. Morning News, 156 U.S. 518; Davis v. C.,C.,C. & St. L. Ry. Co., 217 U.S. 157, 174), and since the injunction operates only in personam, it was erroneous to include them as defendants. It also was erroneous to include personal relief by injunction against certain named parties who, pending suit, were chosen to succeed some of the original defendants as officers of the international, district, and sub-district

[ 245 U.S. Page 235]

     unions, but who were not served with process and did not appear, they being included upon the ground that they were "before the court by representation through service having been had upon their said predecessors in office." This suit was commenced, and was carried to final decree in the trial court, before the taking effect of the present Equity Rules (226 U.S. 629), and hence is governed by the former Rule 48 (210 U.S. 524), under which the rights of absent parties were expressly reserved.

But these procedural difficulties do not affect that part of the decree which awarded an injunction against the answering defendants (Lewis, Green, Sullivan, Savage, Watkins, Zelenka, and Rankin) "individually" and not as officers of the Union or its branches except as to Savage, against whom the decree goes in both him individual and official capacities, he alone having retained at the time of the final decree the same office he held at the beginning of the suit. If there was error in excluding the "official" responsibility of the others, it was not one of which they could complain, and it was not assigned for error upon their appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals. If they were subject to injunction at all, they were so in their individual capacities. Whether the decree will bind their successors in office, or their fellow-members of the Union, is a question to be determined hereafter, if and when proceedings are taken to enforce the injunction against parties other than the answering defendants.

We proceed, therefore, to consider the case as it stands against the answering defendants.

The District Court based its decision upon two grounds: (1) That the organization known as the United Mine Workers of America, and its branches, as conducted and managed at the time of the suit and for many years before, was a common-law conspiracy in unreasonable restraint of trade, and also and especially a conspiracy against the rights of non-union miners in West Virginia;

[ 245 U.S. Page 236]

     and (2) That the defendants, in an effort to compel the plaintiff to enter into contractual relations with the Union relating to the employment of labor and the production of coal, although having knowledge of express contracts existing between plaintiff and its employees which excluded relations with the Union, endeavored by unlawful means to procure a breach of these contracts by the employees.

A brief recital of previous transactions between the parties becomes material. The Union is a voluntary and unincorporated association which was organized in the year 1890 in the States of Ohio and Indiana, and afterwards was extended to other States. It is made up of national or "international," district, sub-district, and local unions. District No. 6 comprises the coal districts of Ohio and the Panhandle of West Virginia. Sub-district No. 5 of that district comprises five counties and parts of counties in Ohio, and the Panhandle.

The answering defendants were and are active and influential members -- leaders -- of the Union, as well as officers. Savage, Lewis, and Sullivan have been members from its formation in 1890, and have held important offices in it and attended the national conventions. The others are long-time members, and possessed an influence indicated by the offices they held, but not limited to the duties of those offices.

From 1897 to 1906 what were known as joint interstate conferences were held annually or biennially between officials of the Union and representatives of the operators in the "Central Competitive Field" (which includes Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, but not West Virginia), for the purpose of agreeing upon the scale of wages and the conditions of employment in that field. In addition there were occasional conferences of the same character affecting other States and districts.

[ 245 U.S. Page 237]

     Plaintiff's mine is within the territorial limits of Sub-district No. 5 of District No. 6. Coal-mining operations were commenced there in the early part of the year 1902, and the mine was operated "non-union" until April, 1903, when, under threats from the Union officials, including defendants Watkins and Sullivan, that a certain unionized mine in Ohio, owned by the same proprietors, would be closed down if the men at the Hitchman were not allowed to organize, plaintiff consented to the unionization of the latter mine. This went into effect on the 1st of April, 1903, and upon the very next day the men were called out on strike because of a disagreement with the company as to the basis upon which mining should be paid for. The strike continued until May 23, requiring plaintiff to cease operations and preventing it from fulfilling its contracts, the most important of which was one for the daily supply of engine coal to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at a coaling station adjoining the mine. The financial loss to plaintiff was serious. The strike was settled and the men resumed work upon the basis of a modification of the official mining scale applicable to the Hitchman mine.

Again, in the spring of 1904, there was difficulty in renewing the scale. A temporary scale, agreed upon between operators and miners for the month of April, 1904, was signed in behalf of the Hitchman Company on the 18th of April. Two days later the men at the Hitchman struck, and the mine remained idle for two months, during which time plaintiff sustained serious losses in business and was put to heavy expense in obtaining coal from other sources to fill its contract with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company. The strike was settled by the adoption of the official scale for the Panhandle District, with amendatory local rules for the Hitchman mine.

After this there was little further trouble until April 1,

[ 245 U.S. Page 2381906]

     , when a disagreement arose between the Union and an association of operators with which plaintiff was not connected -- the association being in fact made up of its competitors -- about arranging the terms of the scale for the ensuing two years. At the same time a similar disagreement arose between the operators and the Union officials in the Central Competitive Field. The result was a termination of the interstate conferences and a failure to establish any official scale for the ensuing two years, followed by a widespread strike, or a number of concurrent strikes, involving the most of the bituminous coal-producing districts. There was absolutely no grievance or ground of disagreement at the Hitchman mine, beyond the fact that the mining scale expired by its own terms on March 31, and the men had not received authority from the Union officials either to renew it or to agree to a new one in its place. Plaintiff came to an understanding with the local union to the effect that if its men would continue at work the company would pay them from April 1st whatever the new scale might be, except that if the new scale should prove to be lower than that which expired on March 31, there should be no reduction in wages, while if the scale was raised the company would pay the increased amount, dating it back to April 1st. This was satisfactory to the men; but as the question of a new scale was then under discussion at a conference between the officials of the Union and the representatives of the Operators' Association, and plaintiff's employees wished to get the sanction of their officers, the manager of the Hitchman mine got into communication with those officials, including defendant Green, President of District No. 6, and endeavored to secure their assent to the temporary arrangement, but without success. Then a committee of the local union, including Daugherty, its President, took up the matter with Green and received permission to mine and load engine coal

[ 245 U.S. Page 239]

     until further notice from him. Under this arrangement the men remained at work for about two weeks. On April 15th, defendant Zelenka, Vice President of the sub-district, visited the mine, called a meeting of the miners, and addressed them in a foreign tongue, as a result of which they went on strike the next day, and the mine was shut down until the 12th of June, when it resumed as a "non-union" mine, so far as relations with the U.M. W.A. were concerned.

During this strike plaintiff was subjected to heavy losses and extraordinary expenses with respect to its business, of the same kind that had befallen it during the previous strikes.

About the 1st of June a self-appointed committee of employees called upon plaintiff's president, stated in substance that they could not remain longer on strike because they were not receiving benefits from the Union, and asked upon what terms they could return to work. They were told that they could come back, but not as members of the United Mine Workers of America; that thenceforward the mine would be run non-union, and the company would deal with each man individually. They assented to this, and returned to work on a non-union basis. Mr. Pickett, the mine superintendent, had charge of employing the men, then and afterwards, and to each one who applied for employment he explained the conditions, which were that while the company paid the wages demanded by the Union and as much as anybody else, the mine was run non-union and would continue so to run; that the company would not recognize the United Mine Workers of America; that if any man wanted to become a member of that union he was at liberty to do so; but he could not be a member of it and remain in the employ of the Hitchman Company; that if he worked for the company he would have to work as a non-union man. To this each man employed gave his assent, understanding

[ 245 U.S. Page 240]

     that while he worked for the company he must keep out of the Union.

Since January, 1908 (after the commencement of the suit), in addition to having this verbal understanding, each man has been required to sign an employment card expressing in substance the same terms. This has neither enlarged nor diminished plaintiff's rights, the agreement not being such as is required by law to be in writing.

Under this arrangement as to the terms of employment, plaintiff operated its mine from June 12, 1906, until the commencement of the suit in the fall of the following year.

During the same period a precisely similar method of employment obtained at the Glendale mine, a property consisting of about 1,200 acres of coal land adjoining the Hitchman property on the south, and operated by a company having the same stockholders and the same management as the Hitchman; the office of the Glendale mine being at the Hitchman Coal & Coke Company's office. Another mine in the Panhandle, known as the Richland, a few miles north of the Hitchman, likewise was run "non-union."

In fact, all coal mines in the Panhandle and elsewhere in West Virginia, except in a small district known as the Kanawha field, were run "non-union," while the entire industry in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois was operated on the "closed-shop" basis, so that no man could hold a job about the mines unless he was a member of the United Mine Workers of America. Pennsylvania occupied a middle ground, only a part of it being under the jurisdiction of the Union. Other States need not be particularly mentioned.

The unorganized condition of the mines in the Panhandle and some other districts was recognized as a serious interference with the purposes of the Union in the

[ 245 U.S. Page 241]

     Central Competitive Field, particularly as it tended to keep the cost of production low, and, through competition with coal produced in the organized field, rendered it more difficult for the operators there to maintain prices high enough to induce them to grant certain concessions demanded by the Union. This was the subject or earnest and protracted discussion in the annual international convention of the U.M.W.A. held at Indianapolis, Indiana, in the month of January, 1907, at which all of the answering defendants were present as delegates and participated in the proceedings. The discussion was based upon statements contained in the annual reports of John Mitchell, as President of the Union (joined as a defendant in the bill but not served with process), and of defendant Lewis, as Vice President, respecting the causes and consequences of the strike of 1906, and the policy to be adopted by the Union for the future. In these reports it was made to appear that the strike had been caused immediately by the failure of the joint convention of operators and miners representing the central and southwestern competitive fields, held in the early part of the year 1906, to come to an agreement for a renewal of the mining scale; that the strike was widespread, involving not less than 400,000 mine workers, was terminated by "district settlements," with variant results in different parts of the territory involved, and had not been followed by a renewal of the former relations between the operators and miners in the Central Competitive Field. Another result of the strike was a large decrease in the membership of the Union. Two measures of relief were proposed: first, that steps be taken to re-establish the joint interstate conferences; and second, the organization of the hitherto unorganized fields, including the Panhandle District of West Virginia, under closed-shop agreements, with all men about the mines included in the membership of the United Mine Workers

[ 245 U.S. Page 242]

     of America. In the course of the discussion the purpose of organizing West Virginia in the interest of the unionized mine workers in the Central Competitive Field, and the probability that it could be organized only by means of strikes, were repeatedly declared and were disputed by nobody. All who spoke advocated strikes, differing only as to whether these should be nation-wide or sectional. Defendant Lewis, in his report, recommended an abandonment of the policy of sectional settlements which had been pursued in the previous year. This recommendation, interpreted as a criticism of the policy pursued under the leadership of President Mitchell in the settlement of the 1906 strike, was the subject of long and earnest debate, in the course of which Lewis said: "When we organize West Virginia, when we organize the unorganized sections of Pennsylvania, we will organize them by a strike movement." And again, towards the close of the debate: "No one has made the statement that we can organize West Virginia without a strike." Defendant Green took part, favoring the view of Mr. Lewis that strikes should be treated nationally instead of sectionally. In the course of his remarks he said: "I say to you, gentlemen, one reason why I opposed the policy that was pursued last year was because over in Ohio we were peculiarly situated. We had West Virginia on the south and Pennsylvania on the east, and after four months of a strike in eastern Ohio we had reached the danger line. We felt keenly the competition from West Virginia, and during the suspension our mines in Ohio chafed under the object lesson they had. They saw West Virginia coal go by, train-load after train-load passing their doors, when they were on strike. This coal supplied the markets that they should have had. There is no disguising the fact, something must be done to remedy this condition. Year after year Ohio has had to go home and strike in some portion of the district to enforce the

[ 245 U.S. Page 243]

     interstate agreement that was signed up here. . . . I confess here and now that the overwhelming sentiment in Ohio was that a settlement by sections would not correct the conditions we complained of. Now, something must be done; it is absolutely necessary to protect us against the competition that comes from the unorganized fields east of us." Mr. Mitchell opposed the view of defendant Lewis, reiterating an opinion, repeatedly expressed before, that West Virginia and the other unorganized fields, "would not be thoroughly organized except as the result of a successful strike "; but declaring that "they will not be organized at all, strike or no strike, unless we are able to support the men in those fields from the first day they lay down their tools. . . . Now, I believe it is possible, indeed I believe it is probable, that in the not distant future we will be able to inaugurate a movement in West Virginia and the other unorganized fields that will involve them in a strike, and then we will expect you to furnish the sinews of war, as you have done in the past, to keep these men in idleness."

The discussion continued during three days, and at the end of it the report of a committee which expressed disagreement with Vice President Lewis' opposition to sectional settlements and recommended "a continuation in the future of the same wise, conservative business-like policies" that had been pursued by President Mitchell, was adopted by a viva voce vote.

The plain effect of this action was to approve a policy which, as applied to the concrete case, meant that in order to relieve the union miners of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois from the competition of the cheaper product of the non-union mines of West Virginia, the West Virginia mines should be "organized" by means of strikes local to West Virginia, the strike benefits to be paid by assessments upon the union miners in the other States mentioned, while they remained at work.

[ 245 U.S. Page 244]

     This convention was followed by an annual convention of Sub-district 5 of District 6, held in the month of March, 1907, at which defendants Watkins and Rankin were present as President and Secretary of the sub-district. Defendant Lewis, as National Vice President, occupied the chair during several of the sessions. Defendant Zelenka was present as a delegate, and also Thomas Hughes, who, while named as a defendant in the present suit, was not served with process. Watkins and Rankin in their reports recommended the complete unionization of the mines in the Panhandle counties, with particular reference to the Hitchman, the Glendale, the Richland, and two others; and as a result it was resolved "that the Sub-District officers, together with the District officers, be authorized to take up the work of organizing every mine in the Sub-District as quickly as it can be done."

Evidently in pursuance of this resolution, defendants Green, Zelenka, and Watkins, about July 1, 1907, called at plaintiff's office and laid before its general manager, Mr. Koch, a proposition for the unionization of the mine. He declined to consider it, but at their request laid it before plaintiff's board of directors, who rejected the proposition, and the manager informed Green of this. In one of the interviews Koch informed these defendants of the terms of plaintiff's working agreement with its employees to the effect that the mine was to be run non-union and they were not to become members of the Union.

About the same time, a Mr. McKinley, who was operating the Richland mine non-union, was interviewed by the Union leaders, notified of the resolution adopted by the sub-district convention, and, having asked that his mine be let alone, was met with the threat that they would secure the support of his ...


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