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Supreme Court decision.

In a ruling that may have a far-reaching effect on the health care industry, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 1989 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determination that established "appropriate bargaining units" of hospital employees for collective bargaining purposes (American Hospital Association V. NLRB). (The NLRB is the Federal agency that sets rules for representation elections in most industries.)

The NLRB decision (which was to become effective in May 1989), with three exceptions, established eight bargaining units in acute care hospitals: registered nurses, physicians, other professional employees, medical technicians, skilled maintenance workers, clerical workers, guards, and other nonprofessional employees. (See Monthly Labor Review, July 1990, pp. 51-52.) The determination was the first industrywide bargaining unit ruling in the Federal agency's history.

The American Hospital Association challenged the 1989 NLRB determination and argued that the ruling violated the National Labor Relations Act requirement that NLRB bargaining unit decisions be made on a case-by-case basis ("in each case") rather than on an industrywide basis; would contribute to "undue proliferation" of bargaining units in the industry; and was arbitrary and capricious.

Speaking for the Court, Justice John Paul Stevens rejected all three of the Hospital Association's arguments. Considering the first argument, he said it was a "general challenge to the Board's rulemaking authority." Rather than finding that the act requires a determination of the appropriate bargaining unit "in each case," Justice Stevens said, "The more natural reading of these three words is simply to indicate that whenever there is a disagreement about the appropriateness of a unit, the Board shall resolve the dispute." Regarding the Hospital Association's second argument, Justice Stevens wrote, "In any event ... if it [the NLRB] did not give appropriate consideration to the problem of proliferation in this industry, Congress might respond with a legislative remedy." On the Association's third argument, that the ruling was arbitrary and capricious because "it ignores critical differences among the more than 4,000 acute-care hospitals in the United States," Justice Stevens said, "The Board's conclusion that, absent extraordinary circumstances, 'acute care hospitals do not differ in substantial, significant ways relating to the appropriateness of units,'. . . was based on a "reasoned analysis' of an extensive record."
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations
Author:Cimini, Michael H.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:361
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