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Johnson v. Christ Hospital

New Jersey Supreme Court


June 21, 1965

HARRISON JOHNSON, MARGARET WILBER AND LOCAL 1199, DRUG AND HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES UNION, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
CHRIST HOSPITAL, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For reversal -- None.

Per Curiam

[45 NJ Page 110]

The judgment is affirmed for the reasons expressed by Judge Matthews in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. 84 N.J. Super. 541 (Ch. Div. 1964).

In summary we hold:

1. Employees of nonprofit hospitals are persons in private employment within the meaning of Article I, para. 19 of the New Jersey Constitution.

2. As such employees, they have the right to organize and to bargain collectively with nonprofit hospital employers through representatives of their own choosing, such as labor unions, with respect to wages, hours and conditions of employment.

3. Nonprofit hospital employers are obliged to bargain collectively with properly chosen representatives of their employees

[45 NJ Page 111]

with respect to wages, hours and conditions of employment.*fn1

4. Nonprofit hospital employers and the properly chosen representatives of their employees are obliged to bargain in good faith with the objective of achieving mutual understanding and agreement as to wages, hours and conditions of employment. Good faith bargaining includes an awareness on the part of both parties of the special nature of the enterprise in which they are engaged, and of the special relation each bears to the public.

5. The right of the nonprofit hospital employees to picket or to strike is not an issue in the case before us. Nor does the case present this problem: If such a right exists, in view of the unusual nature of the public interest in unimpeded operation of non-profit hospitals, can and should the courts impose conditions precedent to, or qualifications on, exercise of the right so as to protect within fair and sensible limits the lives and health of the patients? Accordingly, we reserve these questions until they are specifically before us in a live controversy.*fn2 [45 NJ Page 112] 6. In the present state of the law the courts have the general power and the duty to determine justiciable labor disputes between nonprofit hospitals and their employees. At the same time we recognize that it is more expedient to have the day-to-day problems arising out of disputes concerning wages, hours and conditions of employment regulated by over-all legislation, than for the courts to set about the establishment of procedural and substantive precedents on a case-to-case basis. [45 NJ Page 113] Some comment should be made about an additional point raised by the hospital. The trial court ordered a representation election to be held after a fixed period for informational and organizational activity. He specified rather generally that such activity might be directed to all employees except professional employees and those having supervisory duties. Implicit in this classification is that employees to whom such activity might be directed should form the bargaining unit and be entitled to vote in the election. The hospital complains

[45 NJ Page 114]

that the composition of the appropriate unit was not tried out. It appears to suggest principally that the particular employees who should fall into the excluded class was not determined and that it did not have the opportunity to present evidence on the details of this subject. It seems to us that if any real difficulty develops along this line during the organizational period, either party is free to present the question to the trial court for determination before the election is held.

The judgment is affirmed.


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