Ramsey v. United Mine Workers of America

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Court Documents
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

401 U.S. 302

Ramsey  v.  United Mine Workers of America

 Argued: Dec. 7, 1970. --- Decided: Feb 24, 1971


Petitioner coal mine operators brought this Sherman Act conspiracy action against respondent union alleging that respondent had expressly or impliedly agreed with the major producers to impose the provisions of the 1950 National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement (NBCWA) on all coal mine operators, knowing that the smaller ones would be unable to meet the NBCWA terms and would be driven out of business. Petitioners based their express-agreement claim on a later amendment, the Protective Wage Clause (PWC), whereby respondent undertook not to enter into any agreement with other operators on a basis other than the NBCWA, and their implied-agreement claim on the PWC and subsequent activities of respondent and the major operators. Following a trial, the trial judge dismissed the case for failure of proof, finding that the PWC did not constitute an express commitment by respondent not to bargain with other operators except on NBCWA terms but that, all evidence considered, an implied commitment to do so would be inferred if the applicable standard of proof were the preponderance of the evidence standard ordinarily applied in civil cases. He concluded, however, that where a labor union is involved, § 6 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act requires a standard of 'clear proof,' both with respect to the authority of individuals alleged to have performed illegal acts on behalf of unions and with respect to whether the acts themselves occurred, amounted to a conspiracy, and had injured the plaintiff's business. Section 6 provides that no organization participating in a labor dispute shall be liable for the unlawful acts of individual officers or members except upon 'clear proof' of actual participation in or authorization of such acts. The District Court's judgment was affirmed by an equally divided Court of Appeals. Petitioners additionally urge a construction of the PWC which would make it an illegal agreement for which respondent is not exempt under the antitrust laws, and they ask for reconsideration of the holding in United Mine Workers of America v. Pennington, 381 U.S. 657, 85 S.Ct. 1585, 14 L.Ed.2d 626, that a union is not liable under the antitrust laws when it concludes 'a wage agreement with a multi-employer bargaining unit * * * and as a matter of its own policy, and not by agreement with all or part of the employers of that unit, seek(s) the same wages from other employers.' Held:

1. The ordinary preponderance of the evidence standard is applicable in civil antitrust actions against labor unions except with respect to proving the authority of individual members, officers, or agents of a union to perform on behalf of the union the acts complained of, where the 'clear proof' standard applies. Pp. 307-311.

2. This Court cannot properly consider in the first instance petitioners' additional argument about the construction of the PWC since it is not clear if the contention was made below and whether, in any event, the record supports it. Pp. 311-312.

3. The Court's decision in Pennington is reaffirmed both with respect to the holding (1) that a union may make wage agreements with a multi-employer bargaining unit and in pursuit of its own self-interests seek to secure the same terms from other employers and (2) that the antitrust exemption is forfeited if the union agrees with an employer group to impose a certain wage scale on other bargaining units, thus joining a conspiracy to limit competition. Pp. 312-314.

416 F.2d 655, reversed and remanded.

John A. Rowntree, Knoxville, Tenn., for petitioners.

Edward Bennett Williams, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).