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PRICE v. UMW

May 23, 1974

Frederick D. Price et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
United Mine Workers of America et al., Defendants


Jones, D. J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JONES

This action was instituted by plaintiffs Price, Burich and Trulos against the United Mine Workers of America (Union) and Arnold Miller (International President of the Union), in which plaintiffs seek to enjoin defendants from discharging them from their jobs as Union employees and from engaging in conduct intended to harass, intimidate or degrade plaintiffs in order to force their resignations as Union employees or otherwise to discipline them for their expressions of political choice during the Union elections of 1969 and 1972. Plaintiffs assert that the notices of discharge issued to them in January, 1973, violated the Labor-Management Disclosure Act of 1959 and particularly Section 101(a) (1) and (2). 29 U.S.C., Sec. 411(a) (1) and (2). Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction and this Court, pursuant to Rule 65(a) (2), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, ordered the trial of the action on the merits to be advanced and consolidated with the hearing of the application for preliminary injunction. *fn1" The case has been tried to the Court without a jury and this opinion shall constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 As it has been noted, Price and Burich were employees of the Union with positions in the Safety Division, while Trulos was Director of the Manpower Training and Education Department of the Union. In parts at least the facts pertaining to Price and Burich are different from those pertaining to Trulos and this opinion will treat with the claims of the former two and then discuss Trulos' claim.

 I. Claims of Price and Burich

 Price is 55 years of age. For two years after finishing high school he attended college at Lincoln University. In 1940 he joined the Union and thereafter worked as a miner in various capacities. During this period he attended night school at Pennsylvania State University's extension division and studied coal mining. He received qualifying papers in several areas of coal mining and in 1945 he qualified as a mine examiner and in 1946 he qualified as a first-grade assistant mine foreman. And in 1950 Price qualified as a first-grade mine foreman.

 In 1961 Price sustained a broken neck while working in a mine tunnel and thereafter was only able to do lighter mine-related work.

 In June, 1968, Price was elected by members of his local union to the mine safety committee. He served in that capacity for a short period of time and then was appointed by Boyle, then International President of the Union, as the Union's District 4 representative. In that capacity, he served local unions and handled grievances and complaints of miners. He was appointed Safety Coordinator for District 4 in February, 1970. In that capacity he worked with local mine safety committees and with the Safety Director of the entire Union. While Boyle was President, Price in August, 1971, was appointed Acting Deputy Director of the Safety Division of the Union and in February, 1972, President Boyle appointed Price as Deputy Director. During the period that he served as Acting Deputy Director and Deputy Director he was stationed in Washington at the Union's national headquarters. On occasion he would visit mine sites in the field but his work for the most part was in Washington. He was holding the position of Deputy Director of the Safety Division when he received his letter of discharge on January 26, 1973.

 Burich is 50 years of age. While attending high school in Pennsylvania, he took two years of mining courses. In April, 1942, he joined the Union as an apprentice miner and in 1945 he received state certification as a qualified "shot fireman." In 1956, he was elected to the mine safety committee of his local union. In that capacity he investigated mine accidents involving both loss of life and serious injuries. He served for 16 years on the mine safety committee and during that period talked to miners on mine safety. In 1966 he was elected auditor of his local and he continued in that capacity until he resigned to accept the appointment in 1972 as Assistant to the Director of the Safety Division. He was appointed to that position on February 1, 1972, by President Boyle. His work in that capacity was at the National Headquarters in Washington, although it did involve some field investigation of certain safety factors as well as instructions to local safety committees and district safety coordinators. It was in that position that he was serving when he received his January 26, 1973, notice of discharge.

 Both Price and Burich had participated to some extent in the 1969 campaign of the Union in which Boyle was opposed by the late Joseph Yablonski. During the 1972 election they were under the restriction placed upon the employees of the Union as far as political participation was concerned by the order of Judge Bryant of this Court in Hodgson v. United Mine Workers of America, 344 F. Supp. 17 (1972). The most they did in the 1972 elections was during week-ends at their homes in Pennsylvania. Their campaigning during that period was considerably limited. Burich's 1972 campaigning consisted of writing two letters to the editor of a local paper in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, which were published as letters to the editor. One letter was not signed. The second one was. Price's 1972 campaigning consisted of very limited discussions over week-ends with the local miners in his home area.

 While there is some conflict in the evidence with respect to the extent of Burich's 1969 campaigning, I accept the statement he made in his affidavit filed in this action and dated February 6, 1973, that he engaged in no active campaigning. Price's 1969 campaigning I find to have been very limited.

 Prior to the election in 1969, there was a very serious mine accident at Farmington, West Virginia. That accident took the lives of 78 miners. It was a definite activating force in bringing the late Joseph Yablonski into the campaign as a candidate for the international presidency. In that campaign he was supported by, among others, Miller, now the International President. A dominating issue raised in the 1969 campaign was mine safety. And again in the 1972 campaign when Miller opposed Boyle mine safety was a principal issue. The slogan asserted by the Yablonski-Miller forces was that coal was to be mined safely or not at all.

 It was following the Farmington mine disaster that the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, 30 U.S.C. 801, et seq., was passed. Miners who were daily facing the possibility of injury or death while working in the mines were naturally concerned for their own welfare. The Yablonski-Miller group found support in such apprehension on the part of the working miners. In the 1972 campaign President Miller considered this matter to be an issue of "moral decency and a mandate of moral responsibility that the officers of this Union, every man in the Union had a responsibility." (Transcript 1565-66) Miller himself was a victim of coal mining as he suffers "black lung" disease. During the campaign he visited as many as 400 mines and from that experience as well as his earlier personal experiences he was satisfied that the safety programs of the Union were not meeting the needs of the miners for safety and health in their every day work. When he assumed office on December 22, 1972, he was determined that that condition would be remedied. He was intent on reorganizing the Safety Division to make it accomplish the purpose which he conceived that Division had.

 Miller's plan, which has been in large part effectuated since December, 1972, called for an experienced executive director and he found such an executive director not among the members of the Union but in the person of a District Director of the United States Bureau of Mines. Miller and his supporters were also of the view that the existing Safety Division had failed completely in research and education and that if mine safety was to be effective research and education would be necessary. Again, the person selected as the Director of Research and Education of the reorganized Safety Division was not a member of the Union but was a mining engineer who had taught at the West Virginia School of Mines. Moreover, Miller was of the opinion that the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act presented many legal matters connected with the enforcement of the Act by the United States Bureau of Mines. In order for the Safety ...


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