CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that nearly 43,000 coal miners on wildcat strikes in nine states are violating U.S. labor law and ordered them not to engage in any strike-related activities.
U.S. District Judge Dennis Knapp said the walkouts by United Mine Workers members violated National Labor Relations Act guidelines against secondary boycotts. The walkouts began June 12 in support of 1,900 UMW members who have been on strike against the Pittston Coal Group since April 5.
Knapp issued a temporary injunction at the request of the National Labor Relations Board. He said union officers must report to the NLRB within 10 days on what steps they have taken to meet the court order.
UMW President Richard L. Trumka said union officers "do not believe an injunction is warranted in this case."
"These work stoppages are not sanctioned by the union, and the international has requested the affected members to return to work," Trumka said in a statement. "We will take the necessary steps to comply with the court's order as we review the next legal steps."
Gov. Gaston Caperton applauded Knapp's order.
"It's so important to get people back to work. Everybody's interested in finding new ways to finding a solution to this problem," Caperton said in Huntington, where he attended an economic development seminar.
Knapp ordered the UMW to stop any activities that might cause miners to continue to strike and to halt any threats or coercion against the coal companies.
He told the UMW to inform miners that union officers have no objection to their return to work and that miners would not be disciplined by the union for resuming work.
There were no reports of strikers heeding the order. But most began their two-week vacations this week, and the coal fields have been relatively quiet since the weekend.
Earlier in the walkout, there were rowdy and sometimes violent attempts by miners to block replacement workers and coal trucks as miners ignored previous back-to-work court orders.
Jim Strickland, director of public relations for the Drummond Co., one of Alabama's largest coal producers, said the company was pleased with the court order.