[84 NJSuper Page 543] This is an action instituted by plaintiffs Harrison Johnson and Margaret Wilber (hereinafter sometimes referred to as individual plaintiffs) and Local
1199, Drug and Hospital Employees Union (hereinafter referred to as the Union) against defendant Christ Hospital, a nonprofit corporation of the State of New Jersey, operating a hospital in Jersey City. In the first and second counts of the complaint, the individual plaintiffs allege that on October 12, 1962 and October 18, 1962, respectively, they were discharged from their employment with defendant because of their membership in or activity on behalf of the Union, in violation of their rights under Art. I, par. 19 of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947.
The individual plaintiffs seek relief for this claimed wrong by way of reinstatement to their former jobs with back pay and interest, injunctive relief against future violations of their constitutional rights, and, in the second count, punitive damages.
In the third and fourth counts, the Union alleges that "on or about October 16, 1962 [it] represented and still represents a majority of the non-professional, non-medical employees of Christ Hospital; that on that date, it informed defendant of its said representation of defendant's employees * * * and requested that defendant meet and bargain collectively with it," which request was refused by defendant. This, the Union contends, constitutes a violation of its rights and those of the individual plaintiffs under Article I, paragraph 19 of our Constitution afore-mentioned.
For this claimed wrong, the Union seeks relief by way of a judgment ordering defendant to bargain collectively with it as representative of the nonprofessional, nonmedical employees of a hospital, and, in the fourth count, punitive damages.
Defendant has filed an answer which generally denies the allegations of plaintiffs' complaint.
In limine , it is observed that there is no dispute over the jurisdiction of this court with respect to the questions here
involved. There is no federal pre-emption, since under the terms of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, employees of charitable hospitals are specifically exempt from its provisions. See 29 U.S.C.A. § 152 (2) (61 Stat. 137, 29 U.S.C. § 141 et seq.). Absent the assertion of federal jurisdiction in this area, state courts may entertain jurisdiction in such matters. Utah Valley Hospital v. Industrial Commission of Utah , 199 F.2d 6 (10 Cir. 1952); Cooper v. Nutley Sun Printing Co., Inc. , 36 N.J. 189, 194 (1961).
It is equally well settled that neither the absence of labor legislation in this State, nor the disinclination of the Legislature to provide machinery or legislation for the control of intrastate labor matters can bar this court from the authority, as part of its general jurisdiction, to speak in actions dealing with these matters. Cooper v. Nutley Sun Printing Co., Inc., supra , at p. 195; Independent Dairy Workers, etc. v. Milk Drivers, &c., Local No. 680 , 30 N.J. 173, 181 (1959).
Two questions relating to jurisdiction have been raised by defendant which merit consideration. The first deals with the applicability of Art. I, par. 19 of the Constitution of 1947 to private voluntary hospitals as employers. The second involves the status of the Union to maintain this action in its own right.
Defendant contends that the framers of the Constitution of 1947 in formulating the statement of rights of employees in public and private employment as contained in Article I, paragraph 19 thereof, failed to consider the position of privately operated charitable institutions such as Christ Hospital. Examination of the minutes of the Constitutional Convention of 1947 fails to disclose therein any references to institutions such as defendant here. Defendant urges that privately operated voluntary hospitals should not be subject to the constitutional provision in question since, in reality,
they are daily discharging functions which are also being discharged by similar governmentally operated institutions. At best, defendant's arguments as to this point seek to establish that privately operated hospitals fall into a category which might be termed quasi -public. It does not appear, however, that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention even considered the category of hospital employees during their deliberations which led to the adoption of Article I, paragraph 19. The classifications established by the framers embrace public and private employees. While reference may be found in the minutes to employees of public utilities, no specific action was taken with respect to them because of the existence of N.J.S.A. 34:13B (L. 1946, c. 38) dealing with labor disputes in public utilities, enacted in 1946.*fn1 It was believed by the delegates that the provisions of Article XI, Section I, paragraph 3 of the proposed Constitution would continue the vitality of the Public Utility Labor Disputes Act, despite the adoption of the new Constitution.
With the exception of the references made to employees of public utilities, the minutes of the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1947 make it clear that the delegates in drafting and adopting Article I, paragraph 19 were chiefly concerned with a statement of the rights of two classes of employees: those in private employment and those in public employment. It is equally clear that the classification of public employees refers to governmental employees as opposed
to all others.*fn2 See I Proceedings of the N.J. Constitutional Convention of 1947, pp. 328, 655.
In Greisman v. Newcomb Hospital , 40 N.J. 389 (1963), a case involving the admissions to staff policies of a private voluntary hospital, wherein it was contended that Newcomb Hospital as a private rather than a public hospital might in its discretion exclude physicians from its medical staff, our Supreme Court observed:
"Broad judicial expressions may, of course, be found to the effect that hospitals such as Newcomb are private in nature and that their staff admission policies are entirely discretionary. [Citations omitted] They are private in the sense that they are nongovernmental, but they are hardly private in other senses." (at p. 396)
Christ Hospital is nongovernmental. Other than meeting the licensing requirements of the State, there is no control exercised over the administration of the hospital by any governmental agency. The hospital is operated by a council of 35 members who represent the general public. It is loosely affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church and, as a result, all the Episcopal clergy of Hudson County are automatically on its board. The hospital operates on funds which are derived
from the bills paid by patients who are admitted for treatment, from public drives conducted by the hospital, and from gifts and foundations. A small percentage of its income is derived from public funds for the treatment of indigent cases. It is clearly nongovernmental and, accordingly, its employees for the purposes of Article I, paragraph 19 of our Constitution must be regarded as persons in private employment.
Defendant argues that the Union has no standing to sue "to protect the rights of its members" and "for violation of its right to bargain collectively on behalf of its members." The argument is based principally on Article I, paragraph 19 of our Constitution. Thus, it is said the paragraph which reads as follows:
"Persons in private employment shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively. Persons in public employment shall have the right to organize, present to and make known to the State, or any of its political subdivisions or agencies, their grievances and proposals through representatives of their own choosing."
does not refer to unions or their rights. The sole concern of the paragraph, it is stated, is with employees and their individual rights to organize and bargain collectively. It is also contended that the scope of Article I, paragraph 19 is nowise affected by the statutory grants to unions of status to sue or be sued as legal entities contained either in N.J.S. 2A:64-1 et seq. or sec. 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185; these statutory provisions, it is claimed, are applicable only where a union has some standing as an entity apart from its members, e.g. , where it is a party to a collective bargaining ...