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Delaware River & Bay Authority v. New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission

Decided: November 9, 1970.

THE DELAWARE RIVER & BAY AUTHORITY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS COMMISSION, AND GENERAL TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION 326, AFFILIATED WITH INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN & HELPERS OF AMERICA, DISTRICT NO. 1-P. C.D., MARINE ENGINEERS BENEFICIAL ASSOCIATION, AFL-CIO AND LOCAL 333, UNITED MARINE DIVISION, NATIONAL MARITIME UNION, AFL-CIO, BEING UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATIONS OF PERSONS TRANSACTING BUSINESS IN NEW JERSEY, USING A COMMON NAME AND NOT BEING AN ORDINARY PARTNERSHIP, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Kilkenny, Halpern and Lane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Halpern, J.A.D.

Halpern

In granting leave to appeal from an order of Judge Wick entered in the Chancery Division, we elected to continue the restraints he imposed and to consider the merits of the appeal in accordance with R. 2:11-2. Briefs were submitted by all parties and fully argued on October 20, 1970.

The narrow issue for determination is whether the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) has jurisdiction over plaintiff Delaware River & Bay Authority (Authority), a bi-state agency created by compact between the States of New Jersey and Delaware.

The Authority was established by interstate compact in 1962, approved by Congress. In general terms, the Authority was authorized to construct and operate crossings between New Jersey and Delaware over the Delaware River

and Bay. A full recital of its creation, purposes, powers and functions is set forth in Delaware River and Bay Authority v. International Org., etc. , 45 N.J. 138 (1965), and need not be repeated here. The principle established by that decision is that plaintiff is a public agency whose employees have no right to strike.

The New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act (act) was enacted in 1968 (N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 et seq.). In general terms, the act was designed to permit public employees to organize, join unions and to appoint bargaining representatives to engage in collective negotiations with public employers. PERC was created by ยง 5-3 of the act and, among other powers, was authorized to conduct secret ballot elections to ascertain duly elected bargaining representatives. A full discussion of the history of the act and its purposes is contained in Lullo v. International Ass'n of Fire Fighters , 55 N.J. 409 (1970), and Burlington County Evergreen Park Mental Hospital v. Cooper , 56 N.J. 579, 586-590 (1970), and will not be repeated here. In the latter case the court held that PERC did not have authority to hear and decide unfair labor practice charges and to issue remedial orders.

All the defendants filed petitions with PERC seeking to be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative for various designated units of the Authority. Jurisdiction was accepted by PERC, which directed that notices of election be posted. Judge Wick enjoined PERC from proceeding with the elections until the issue of PERC's jurisdiction is judicially determined. Similar relief was sought by Local No. 326 in the Delaware courts, but those proceedings have been voluntarily stayed by the parties pending the disposition of this appeal.

In determining PERC's authority and jurisdiction over public employers and employees we are, of necessity, relegated to the statute which created it and the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the act. The act, N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3(c), defines "employer" as including

* * * public employers and shall mean the State of New Jersey, or the several counties and municipalities thereof, or any other political subdivision of the State, or a school district, or any special district, or any authority, commission, or board, or any branch or agency of the public service.

Defendants lay great stress upon the term "any authority" appearing in the statute, and argue it was intended to include plaintiff. We disagree. If such were the legislative intent it would have specifically provided for bi-state authorities. Its failure to do so evidences an intent not to include them because it realized that bi-state agencies are controlled by the compacts entered into, and it could not act unilaterally.

The meaning and intent of a statute must be gathered from its objective, the nature of the subject matter and its contextual setting. We must not be guided by a single sentence or member of a sentence, but we should look to the provisions of the whole law, and to its object and policy, as well as statutes in pari materia. State v. Brown , 22 N.J. 405, 415 (1956); State v. Bander , 5 ...


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