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Labor judge finds Murray at fault for dismissing coal miners that cursed

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Six trends shaping the industries and sectors we cover in 2021

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Essential Energy Insights - January 2021


Labor judge finds Murray at fault for dismissing coal miners that cursed

Anadministrative law judge ruled April 5 that Murray Energy Corp. and engaged inunfair labor practices by dischargingemployees on the basis of what the company tagged as "insubordination"or use of profane, obscene, abusive or threatening language.

InMarch 2015, miners Jesse Stolzenfels and Richard Harrison at Murray's West Virginia-basedMarion County mine were suspended after writing "Void Eat [expletive] Bob"and "Kiss My [expletive] Bob," respectively, on bonus checks toexpress contempt against a bonus plan that was implemented Jan. 15, 2015,despite the rejection of a majority of the employees. Bobwas in reference to Murray Energy founder and CEO Robert Murray.

Thebonus plan indicates that monetary bonuses would be paid to miners based on "attainingpre-set production levels," which according to Harrison "would placetheir focus on production at the expense of safety practices," as statedin the April 5 filing.

Afterconsidering the arguments, Administrative Law Judge Thomas Randazzo of theNational Labor Relations Board said the dismissed miners were engaged inprotected concerted activity.

"Evidencethat Stolzenfels and Harrison were engaged in protected concerted activities isalso found in the fact that their voided checks and written comments were partof the sequence of events concerning the union's and the employees' oppositionto the respondent's unilateral implementation of the bonus plan after theemployees voted to reject it, and which violated of the collective-bargainingagreement," he said in an April 5 order.

Randazzoordered that Murray Energy and the Marion County Coal Company to offer thedismissed employees "reinstatement to their former positions, or if thosejobs no longer exist, to substantially equivalent positions," within 14days starting April 5, and award them with backpay which will be computed on aquarterly basis. Out-of-pocket expenses in search for new jobs will also bereimbursed to Stolzenfels and Harrison.

In astatement to S&P Global Market Intelligence, Murray Energy condemned thedecision, calling it "very biased" and "entirely meaningless.

"Indeed, these complaints were amicably resolved wellbefore the NLRB decision was rendered, and Messrs. Harrison and Stolzenfelswill be returning to work next week, as previously scheduled. Again, theObama-appointed members of the NLRB have made this agency extremely biased againstbusinesses and an absolutely meaningless agency. Safety is, and always hasbeen, the absolute highest priority at Murray American Energy, Inc.,"Robert Murray said.