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U.S. Supreme Court

United Mine Workers v. Pennington, 381 U.S. 657 (1965)

United Mine Workers of America v. Pennington

No. 48

Argued January 27, 1965

Decided June 7, 1965

381 U.S. 657


The trustees of the United Mine Workers of America Welfare and Retirement Fund sued respondents, partners in a coal mining company, for royalty payments under the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1950, as amended. Respondents filed a cross-claim for damages, alleging that the trustees, the UMW and certain large coal operators had conspired to restrain and monopolize commerce in violation of §§1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. It was alleged that, to eradicate overproduction in the coal industry, the UMW and large operators agreed to eliminate the smaller companies by imposing the terms of the 1950 Agreement on all companies regardless of ability to pay, by increasing royalties due the welfare fund, by excluding the marketing, production and sale of nonunion coal, by refusing to lease coal lands to nonunion operators and refusing to buy or sell coal mined by such operators, by obtaining from the Secretary of Labor the establishment of a minimum wage under the Walsh-Healey Act higher than that in other industries, by urging TVA to curtail spot market purchases which were exempt from the Walsh-Healey order, and by waging a price-cutting campaign to drive small companies out of the spot market. Petitioner's motions to dismiss were denied, and the jury returned a verdict against the trustees and the UMW. The trial court set aside the verdict against the trustees, but overruled the union's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that the union was not exempt from liability under the Sherman Act under the facts of the case.


1. An agreement between the union and large operators to secure uniform labor standards throughout the industry would not be exempt from the antitrust laws. Pp. 381 U. S. 661-669.

(a) An agreement resulting from union-employer bargaining is not automatically exempt from Sherman Act scrutiny merely because the negotiations covered wage standards, or any other compulsory subject of bargaining. Pp. 381 U. S. 664-665. chanrobles.com-red

Page 381 U. S. 658

(b) A union may make wage agreements with a multiemployer bargaining unit and may, in pursuance of its own self-interests, seek to obtain the same terms from other employers, but it forfeits its antitrust exemption when it agrees with a group of employers to impose a certain wage scale on other bargaining units, and thus joins a conspiracy to curtail competition. Pp. 381 U. S. 665-666.

(c) Nothing in the national labor policy indicates that a union and employers in one bargaining unit are free to bargain about wages or working conditions of other bargaining units or to settle these matters for the whole industry, nor does it allow an employer to condition the signing of an agreement on the union's imposition of a similar contract on his competitors. Pp. 381 U. S. 666-667.

(d) Antitrust policy clearly restricts employer-union agreements seeking to set labor standards outside the bargaining unit, in view of the anticompetitive potential and the surrender by the union of its freedom of action with respect to bargaining policy. P. 381 U. S. 668.

2. Concerted efforts to influence public officials do not violate the antitrust laws even though intended to eliminate competition. Eastern R. Conf. v. Noerr Motors, 365 U. S. 127, followed. Pp. 381 U. S. 669-672.

(a) Instructions to the jury that anticompetitive purpose could support an illegal conspiracy based solely on the Walsh-Healey and TVA episodes did not constitute merely harmless error. P. 381 U. S. 670.

(b) Respondents were not entitled to damages under the Sherman Act for any injury suffered from the actions of the Secretary of Labor, and the jury should have been so instructed. Pp. 381 U. S. 671-672.

325 F.2d 804, reversed and remanded. chanrobles.com-red

Page 381 U. S. 659


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