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RAIL & RIVER COAL COMPANY v. YAPLE

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


February 23, 1915

RAIL & RIVER COAL COMPANY
v.
YAPLE, ET AL., CONSTITUTING THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION OF OHIO

APPEAL FROM UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds

Author: Day

[ 236 U.S. Page 342]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

This case is brought here by appeal from an order of the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Ohio, refusing an application for interlocutory injunction upon the petition of the Rail and River Coal Company, a West Virginia corporation, against Wallace D. Yaple, Mathew B. Hammond and Thomas J. Duffy, as members of and constituting the Industrial Commission of Ohio. The application was heard under § 266 of the Judicial Code before a Circuit judge and two District judges. The object of the bill was to restrain the Industrial Commission from putting into effect the so-called "Run of Mine" or "Anti-Screen" law of the State of Ohio, passed February 5th, 1914, by the legislature of that State, being entitled "An Act to Regulate the Weighing of Coal at the Mines." 104 Oh. Laws, 181. A copy of the Act is inserted in the margin.*fn1

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     Summarized, the bill sets forth that plaintiff is engaged in the mining business in Ohio, owning a large tract of coal lands, of approximately 32,000 acres, upon which it has four coal mines property developed, employing upward

[ 236 U.S. Page 344]

     of 2,000 persons; that in the State of Ohio there are about 600 coal mines, employing upwards of 45,000 persons; that in the year 1913 more than 36,000,000 tons of coal were produced, and there was expended in wages to said employes upwards of $26,000,000; that the defendants are the members of the Industrial Commission of Ohio, vested by the legislature of that State with authority to enforce the provisions of the "Mine-Run Law"; that for many years mining has been conducted in the State of Ohio by the miners entering into contracts with their employers for a period of two years; that the last contracts expired on April 1, 1914.

The bill set forth the provisions of the act, and alleged that the same are unreasonable and arbitrary and impracticable in operation, and that the act is unconstitutional, as in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of the constitution of the State of Ohio, and that it delegates legislative authority to the Industrial Commission of the State; and although the bill was filed before the act went into effect, it was alleged that the Industrial Commission in putting the same into effect would work an irreparable

[ 236 U.S. Page 345]

     injury to the plaintiff. Upon application under this bill to the District Court, composed of three judges, the injunction was denied (214 Fed. Rep. 273), and the case is appealed to this court.

Under the system of wage payment and mining of coal in use before the passage of this statute, miners in Ohio were paid at a certain price per ton for screened lump coal, that is, for coal which, after it is mined and brought to the surface, is passed over a screen, the bars of which are one and a quarter inches apart. The report of the Ohio Coal Mining Commission, a public document, copies of which have been filed by counsel in this case, shows that that system of mining was regarded as objectionable by the miners, on the ground that they were not paid for mining of a considerable quantity of marketable coal, and there was dissatisfaction because of the wearing of the screens so as to increase the size of the apertures between the bars above the standard. In Ohio, as in some other States, there was much complaint because of this system. It appears that the employers generally desired to preserve the screened-coal basis of payment, and objected to the run of mine system, in which the miner is paid for mining coal as it is when mined without screening. Before enacting the legislation now in controversy in the State of Ohio, the question was referred to a Coal Mining Commission, which Commission, after full investigation of the subject, made the report referred to, in which it appears that the arguments pro and con were considered and reported upon, and a bill was recommended in the form in which the legislature passed the present law. The report of the Commission cannot be read without a conviction that there was an earnest attempt to eliminate the objections to the "run of mine" basis of payment to the miners, and to enact a system fair alike to employer and miner.

The principal objections of the employers to the run of mine system adopted in some of the States are: a tendency

[ 236 U.S. Page 346]

     to produce coal unduly mixed and mingled with slate, sulphur, rock, dirt and other impurities; and to yield an increased quantity of fine coal, to the loss of the employer.

As we have said, the result of the consideration of the objections to this system, by the Commission report, was the enactment of the present law.

Its first section shows that it attempts to substitute for the system theretofore in use in the State, where the terms of employment required payment for mining or loading coal on the basis of the ton or other weight, one by which the miner shall be paid according to the total weight of all the coal contained in the mine car in which the same has been removed from the mine; providing, however, that no greater percentage of slate, sulphur, rock, dirt, or other impurity shall be contained in the contents of such car than that ascertained and determined by the Industrial Commission of Ohio.

By the second section of the act, the Industrial Commission is required to ascertain and determine the percentage of slate, sulphur, rock, dirt, or other impurity unavoidable in the proper mining or loading of such cars in the mines of the State. Evidently this section recognized and considered the objections to the plan of payment adopted in the first section, payment by run of mine, and provided for ascertaining by means of the Commission of the percentage of slate, sulphur, rock, dirt or other impurity, which evidently the lawmakers regarded as impracticable to prevent altogether in the mining of coal. In other words, the employer was not obliged to compensate the miner for everything sent up in the car, no matter how loaded with dirt and impurities. The object was to ascertain the amount of unavoidable impurities in proper mining, and place a limitation upon the miner to that extent.

In fixing the penalties for infractions of the act, § 7

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     penalizes the miner or loader for the contents of a car containing a greater percentage of impurities than that ascertained or determined by the Industrial Commission, and the miner for such infraction is made guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable upon conviction. Section 7 contains the important proviso that nothing contained in the section shall affect the right of a miner or loader and his employer to agree upon deductions by the systems known as docking, on account of such slate, sulphur, rock, dirt, or other impurity.

In other words, the ascertainment of the Industrial Commission which is provided in §§ 1 and 2 is not to be a limitation upon the right of the employer and miner to agree upon deductions of their own arrangement as to the amount of slate, sulphur, rock, dirt or other impurity permitted in the mining of coal. The employer and miner may substitute their own agreement in that respect for the ascertainment of the Commission, and the law fixes no penalty for the mining of coal with such measure of impurities as the employer and miner have thus agreed upon.

Section 3 makes it the duty of the miner and employer to agree upon and fix the percentage of fine coal commonly known as nut, pea, dust and slack allowed in the output of the mines, and where they do not agree, the Industrial Commission may fix such percentage, which percentage thus established shall remain in force until otherwise agreed upon between miner and employer, and the Commission, when it finds the percentage of fine coal as fixed by the Industrial Commission has been exceeded, may make, enter and cause to be enforced such order or orders as will result in reducing the percentage of fine coal to the amount fixed by it.

The report of the Coal Commission (pages 59 and 60) shows the consideration which that body gave to this subject in the interest of fair mining, and its desire to

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     obviate by this provision the undue production of fine coal to the disadvantage of the employer.

By § 5, the Industrial Commission is given power from time to time upon investigation to change the percentage by it ascertained and determined, or fixed by its previous orders.

The only penalty fixed by the law against the employer is contained in § 6, where it is made unlawful for the employer to pass the coal over a screen or other device, for the purpose of ascertaining and calculating the amount to be paid the miner or loader for mining or loading such contents, whereby the total weight of such contents shall be reduced or diminished.

There is nothing in the law to prevent the employer from screening his coal as he sees fit for other purposes, and so as to fit it for the market, in such wise as he may deem advisable. The inhibition on screening is only upon that operation when it is done for the purpose of calculating the amount to be paid to the miner for mining the coal. Moreover, it is important to be considered in this connection that the orders of the Commission are not final, but are subject to review under the statute of Ohio found in 103 Ohio Laws, at page 95, where the orders of the Commission are declared to be only prima facie reasonable, and any employer or other person interested is entitled upon petition to a hearing upon the reasonableness and lawfulness of the order before the Commission, and under § 38 of the law, any employer or other person in interest, being dissatisfied with any order of the Commission, may commence an action in the Supreme Court of Ohio to vacate or amend any such order upon the ground that the same is unreasonable or unlawful, and the Supreme Court is authorized to hear and determine such action and may, in its discretion (§ 41) suspend all or any part of the order of the Commission. The statute makes provision for the prompt hearing of all such actions, in preference

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     to other civil cases, with some exceptions. It would seem that this system of law, with a right to review in the manner we have stated in the Supreme Court of Ohio, has provided a system ample for the protection of the rights of the employers (see Plymouth Coal Co. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 232 U.S. 531). And of course in this, as in other cases, only alleged infractions of constitutional rights of those complaining can be considered in determining the constitutionality of the law. Southern Ry. v. King, 217 U.S. 524, 534; Rosenthal v. New York, 226 U.S. 260, 271; Jeffrey Mfg. Co. v. Blagg, 235 U.S. 571, 576.

The objection that the law is unconstitutional as unduly abridging the freedom of contract in prescribing the particular method of compensation to be paid by employers to miners for the production of coal was made in the case of McLean v. Arkansas, 211 U.S. 539, in which this court sustained a law of the State of Arkansas requiring coal mined to be paid for according to the run of mine system according to its weight when brought out of the mine in cars. In that case the constitutional objections founded upon the right of contract which are made here were considered and disposed of. This court has so often affirmed the right of the State in the exercise of its police power to place reasonable restraints like that here involved, upon the freedom of contract that we need only refer to some of the cases in passing. Schmidinger v. Chicago, 226 U.S. 578; Chicago &c. R. R. v. McGuire, 219 U.S. 549, and cases therein cited and reviewed.

The contention that this law has no reasonable or legal relation to the object to be attained seems to us to be equally without foundation, in view of the recognized right of the legislature to regulate a business of this character, and to determine for itself, in the absence of arbitrary action, the measure of relief necessary to affect the desired purposes. That the law is within the authority

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     of the Ohio legislature, acting under the constitution of Ohio, there can be no question, in view of the authority conferred by that instrument in § 36, Art. II, which provides that "laws may be passed . . . to provide for the regulation of methods of mining, weighing, measuring and marketing coal, oil, gas and other minerals."

As to the alleged impracticability of the law, because of the impossibility of the Industrial Commission determining the quantity of dirt and other impurities in any coal mined, we can find no force in that objection. Agreements as to the amount of docking for dirt and impurities in the mining of coal have been constantly made, and it is not the province of a court to revise conclusions which men versed in the business have found practicable, certainly not in advance of an attempt to put the law into operation. The consideration of the law already given shows the means enacted to do away with these impurities, and to insure as far as possible the production of clean coal.

As to the objection because of the penalties, this is not a suit to enforce penalties; nor in view of the provisions of the statute can we say that the penalties are so great as to prevent a resort to the courts to ascertain the constitutionality of the law. Willcox v. Consolidated Gas Co., 212 U.S. 19; Grand Trunk Ry. v. Michigan Railroad Commission, 231 U.S. 457; Ohio Tax Case, 232 U.S. 576.

We are unable to discover in the statute any infraction of the constitutional rights of the appellant, and the order denying the temporary injunction is accordingly

Affirmed.


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