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International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 68, AFL-CIO v. Delaware River and Bay Authority

February 11, 1997

INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, LOCAL 68, AFL-CIO, D.R.B.A. EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION A/W INTERNATIONAL UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, LOCAL 68, AFL-CIO, AND OLIVER TWIST, JUDITH TWIST, KEVIN BAILEY, MARK P. DESORBO, DAVID R. OAT, DAVID A. CUSICK, JOHN M. BUNTING, A.R. SIMMONS, J. DAVID JOHNSON, ROY S. MACCULLOCH, DANIEL A. SLATER, SR., GERALD H. FOSTER, SR., AND DAVID E. BARNETT ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
THE DELAWARE RIVER AND BAY AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

The opinion of the Court was delivered by Pollock, J. Chief Justice Poritz and Justices Handler, O'hern, Stein and Coleman join in Justice POLLOCK's opinion. Justice Garibaldi filed a separate Dissenting opinion.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pollock

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 68, et al. v. The Delaware River and Bay Authority

(A-9-96)

Argued September 10, 1996 -- Decided February 11, 1997

POLLOCK, J., writing for a majority of the Court.

In this appeal, the Court addresses the issue of whether the New Jersey courts have jurisdiction over a Congressionally-approved interstate ("CAI") compact and, if so, whether the laws of New Jersey and Delaware are substantially similar concerning the right of public employees to negotiate collectively.

The DRBA is a bi-state agency created by a compact between New Jersey and Delaware and approved by Congress ("the Compact"). New Jersey and Delaware created the DRBA to advance their economic development and to improve the flow of traffic between the two states. This case concerns the duty of the DRBA to negotiate collectively with its employees.

When the DRBA hires employees, it provides them with a copy of its Personnel Manual. Although the DRBA, in its manual, refuses to recognize any obligation to bargain collectively with its employees or their chosen representative, it recognizes that its employees may join labor unions.

On August 25, 1993, the D.R.B.A. Employee Association ("Association"), representing ninety-eight DRBA employees, voted to affiliate with Local 68, a labor organization. Thereafter, Local 68 submitted a written request to the DRBA, seeking recognition as the collective-negotiation representative for those employees previously represented by the Association. The DRBA denied that request. Thereafter, a majority of DRBA employees signed authorization cards designating Local 68 as their exclusive representative. The DRBA did not respond to Local 68's subsequent request for recognition as the collective-negotiation representative. Therefore, Local 68 instituted an action in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, alleging that the DRBA's refusal to recognize Local 68 as the collective-negotiation representative interfered with the employees' rights under the New Jersey Constitution and the labor laws of New Jersey and Delaware. The Chancery Division dismissed the complaint, finding that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter.

The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the Chancery Division had jurisdiction and that it could grant the requested relief. In reaching that result, the Appellate Division concluded that the labor laws of New Jersey and Delaware were complementary and parallel.

The Supreme Court granted certification.

HELD: Article XV of the Compact vests the courts of New Jersey and Delaware with concurrent jurisdiction over the DRBA's labor disputes; the DRBA is subject to the law of New Jersey because both New Jersey and Delaware have adopted complementary and parallel legislation in respect of labor disputes.

1. The "Compact Clause" of the United States Constitution empowers states to enter into interstate compacts only with the consent of Congress. The clause applies only to those compacts that might alter the political power of the affected states, and thus interfere with the supremacy of the United States. (pp. 5-6)

2. The construction of an interstate agreement sanctioned by Congress under the Compact Clause presents a federal question. (pp. 6-7)

3. State courts may exercise jurisdiction over cases arising under federal law, including the construction of CAI compacts, absent a controversy between two states or an express provision in a federal statute excluding concurrent state and federal jurisdiction. (pp.7-9)

4. When a state signs a compact, a court of that state may not construe the compact absent the Compact's recognition of that state's jurisdiction. (pp. 9-11)

5. Although a single state may not unilaterally impose additional duties on a bi-state agency, the creator states together may subject the agency to complementary or parallel state legislation -- this is, legislative acts that are substantially similar in nature. (pp. 11-15)

6. The labor laws of New Jersey and Delaware, although not identical, are complementary and parallel, each concluding that public employees should have the right of collective negotiation. In effect, the legislatures have modified the Compact. (pp.15-16)

7. Until such time as the legislatures of New Jersey and Delaware adopt legislation designating an agency to resolve "the myriad of issues that will arise during the course of collective negotiations," the absence of such legislation will not deprive the Chancery Division of jurisdiction. (pp. 17-18)

Judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED and the matter is REMANDED to the Chancery Division.

JUSTICE GARIBALDI filed a separate Dissenting opinion in which she viewed the majority's Disposition as an amendment to the Compact without Delaware's express consent. Although noting that, in some situations, an agency may be subject to complementary or parallel legislation when the issue is limited to interpreting a state law or a state regulation, she believed that such legislation cannot and should not be used to repeal the Compact and, further, viewed the majority's action as inviting uncertainty as to which state's law and administrative procedures apply to a given situation in the labor dispute arena.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES HANDLER, O'HERN, STEIN and COLEMAN join in JUSTICE POLLOCK's opinion. JUSTICE GARIBALDI filed a separate Dissenting opinion.

The opinion of the Court was delivered by

POLLOCK, J.

This appeal raises two issues. The first is whether the New Jersey courts have jurisdiction over a Congressionally-approved interstate ("CAI") compact, specifically the Compact between the states of New Jersey and Delaware creating the Delaware River and Bay Authority (the "DRBA"). If so, the second issue is whether the laws of New Jersey and Delaware are substantially similar concerning the right of public employees to negotiate collectively.

I.

The DRBA is a bi-state agency created by a compact between New Jersey and Delaware and approved by Congress ("the Compact"). N.J.S.A. 32:11E-1; Del. Code Ann. tit. 17, § 1701; Pub. L. 87-678, 76 Stat. 560 (1962). New Jersey and Delaware created the DRBA to advance their economic development and to improve the flow of traffic between the two states. N.J.S.A. 32:11E-1. Toward that end, the DRBA operates crossings between the two states including the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Delaware River and Bay Authority v. Internat'l Org., etc., 45 N.J. 138, 140, 211 A.2d 789 (1965) ("International Org."). Congress approved the DRBA Compact in 1962. Delaware-New Jersey Compact, Pub. L. 87-678, 76 Stat. 560 (1962). This case concerns the duty of the DRBA to negotiate collectively with its employees.

Among the many powers of the DRBA is the power in Article VII, Section (e) to:

Appoint, or employ, such other officers, agents, attorneys, engineers and employees as it may require for the performance of its duties and to fix and determine their qualifications, duties, compensation, pensions, terms of office and all other conditions and terms of employment and retention.

When the DRBA hires employees, it provides them with a copy of its Personnel Manual. Article ...


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