(excerpted from the Summer 1986 newsletter)
Many of our members have followed our progress in the Prater Case over the last seven years. It has been a long, difficult battle that has resulted in important legal precedents. On July 18, 1986, the Prater Case was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the eleventh circuit in Atlanta, GA. Judge Acker’s well-documented decision after the two and a half week trial in October, 1984, was unanimously upheld.
Review of the Prater Case
What follows is a brief history of the Prater Case:
- February 1978 – Seven non-union mine workers employed by the Prater Mining Co. (which was resisting union organizers), were held captive by 1,000 striking members of the United Mine Workers Union. They were told that they would not leave the mine alive. When State Troopers arrived by helicopter, the union mob responded with gunfire and threw sticks of dynamite. This incident was the culmination of months of violent threats and destruction of property suffered by the Prater’s at the hands of union thugs.
- October 1984 – After five years of gathering evidence and taking depositions from the union bosses, the Center wins the case.
- July 1986 – After two more years exhausting the appeals process, the Prater’s and CNLP win the lawsuit and establish major legal precedents.
The UMWA, International and State headquarters, were held responsible for the acts of violence and terrorism of the mare than 1,000 union members that attacked the Prater mine. The union will be forced to pay over $550,000 in damages to the Prater Equipment Company and the Oakman Mining Company.
This decision established a new legal precedent because Judge Acker pierced the immunity that a union is ordinarily granted for the acts of its members.
The other precedent established was that the employees of the Prater Mine Company, who were at tacked during the violent episode, will now be able to sue the United Mine Workers at the Federal level.
It means that now employees can ride along with their employers in lawsuits against unions.
These new precedents will undoubtedly trigger a whole new round of legal action by the United Mine Workers and all the big unions who will pay any price to regain their immunity from the actions of their members.