St. Luke's Hosp. v. Labor Relations Comm'n

Decision Date30 November 1946
Citation320 Mass. 467,70 N.E.2d 10
PartiesST. LUKE'S HOSPITAL v. LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION et al.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Case reserved from Superior Court, Sutfolk County; Swift, Judge.

Action by St. Luke's Hospital against Labor Relations Commission and others for a declaratory decree in accordance with G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 231A, as added by St.1945, c. 582, § 1, adjudging that the Commission had no jurisdiction to hear petition of the Laundry Workers, Dry Cleaners and Miscellaneous Workers of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America under G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 150A as added by St.1938, c. 345, § 2, as amended, for certification as the collective bargaining agency of certain nonprofessional employees of St. Luke's Hospital. The Commission appealed from an interlocutory decree granting a preliminary injunction restraining it from taking any further action in the certification proceedings. The case was thereafter heard upon the pleadings and a statement of agreed facts, and trial judge, without making and decision, reserved and reported the case.

Interlocutory decree affirmed, and final decree entered. J. W. Cussen, of Dorchester and C. J. Dunn, of Boston, for plaintiff.

L. E. Crowley, of Boston, for defendants.

J. F. Dunn, Jr., as amicus curiae.

Before FIELD, C. J., and DOLAN, RONAN, WILKINS, and SPALDING, JJ.

RONAN, Justice.

A trade union, known as the Laundry Workers, Dry Cleaners and Miscellaneous Workers of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, filed a petition under G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 150A, inserted by St.1938, c. 345, § 2, as amended, with the labor relations commission seeking certification as the collective bargaining agency of certain nonprofessional employees of Saint Luke's Hospital. A hearing was held on this petition, at which the hospital was represented and moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that the commission had no jurisdiction to entertain the petition. Before the commission had made any decision on this motion, the hospital filed the present proceedings in the Superior Court against the commission and the union for a declaratory decree in accordance with G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 231A, inserted by St.1945, c. 582, § 1, adjudging that the commission had no jurisdiction to hear the petition for certification. A preliminary injunction was issued restraining the commission from taking any further action in the certification proceedings. The commission appealed from the interlocutory decree granting the injunction. The case was then heard upon the pleadings and a statement of agreed facts, and the judge, without making any decision, reserved and reported the case.

The parties have agreed that the hospital, which is located in New Bedford, is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1884 as a charitable corporation under Pub.Sts. c. 115. It has more than three hundred beds, and maintains an outpatient department and various clinics. Its funds are obtained from fees from patients, gifts, bequests and participation in a local community fund. It furnishes free services to patients who are unable to pay, and such service amounted in 1945 to twelve per cent of the total service rendered by the hospital. Treatment and care of recipients of city welfare are paid for by New Bedford at a rate less than the regular charge. The Federal government pays for services provided for Federal patients.

The union sought certification as the bargaining agent of one hundred twenty-five employees, including laundry workers, maids, porters, machinists, yard help, watchmen, storemen, waitresses, page girls, kitchen and cafeteria help, and orderlies.

We must first inquire whether a bill for a declaratory decree will lie while proceedings are pending before the commission. The State labor relations law, so called, G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 150A, inserted by St.1938, c. 345, § 2, constitutes a complete and comprehensive legislative plan for the elimination of substantial obstructions to trade and industry arising from disputes between employers and employees by removing the basis of such disputes, by prctecting the right of employees to self-organization and to join and form labor organizations, and by encouraging the practice of collective bargaining through representatives of their own choosing to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment. The commission is empowered to take appropriate means to ascertain and designate the representatives selected by the employees as their bargaining agency, to define the units for such representation, to decide whether the employer has committed any unfair labor practice, and to secure enforcement of its orders by application to the Superior Court. An employer who is aggrieved by a final order of the commission may secure a judicial review of such order, but he has no right to such review until the commission has made a final order. This is in accord with the general rule that one must first exhaust his remedies before an administrative board entrusted with the powers above enumerated by a statute which provides for a judicial review before he may invoke any judicial interference with the action of the board. Jordan Marsh Co. v. Labor Relations Commission, 312 Mass. 597, 45 N.E.2d 925;Id., 316 Mass. 748, 56 N.E.2d 915;P. F. Petersen Baking Co. v. Bryan, 290 U.S. 570, 575, 54 S.Ct. 277, 78 L.Ed. 505, 90 A.L.R. 1285;Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Seattle, 291 U.S. 300, 304, 54 S.Ct. 383, 78 L.Ed. 810; Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41, 58 S.Ct. 459, 82 L.Ed. 638;Scripps Memorial Hospital, Inc., v. California Employment Commission, 24 Cal.2d 669, 151 P.2d 109, 155 A.L.R. 360;Idaho Mutual Benefit Association, Inc., v. Robison, 65 Idaho 793, 154 P.2d 156;Craig v. Kansas State Labor Commissioner, 154 Kan. 691, 121 P.2d 203;Universal Realty Corp. Inc. v. Felser, 179 Md. 635, 22 A.2d 448;Johnson v. Pratt, 200 S.C. 315, 20 S.E.2d 865;Provo City v. Claudin, 91 Utah 60, 63 P.2d 570;Knestis v. Unemployment Compensation & Placement Division, 16 Wash.2d 577, 134 P.2d 76.

To permit judicial interference with the orderly administration by the commission of matters entrusted to it by the Legislature before it has commenced to exercise its authority in any particular case or before it has had an opportunity to determine the facts and make a final decision, would in effect transfer to the courts the determination of questions which the Legislature has left in the first instance to the commission, and would result in the substitution of the judgment of the court for that of the commission. Courts must be careful not to invade the province of an administrative board. The instances are rare where circumstances will require such interference. Where an administrative board is created by or is acting under a statute that is violative of the Federal or a State Constitution, or where the board is dealing with a matter that is clearly beyond the scope of its authority, then one may challenge the jurisdiction of the board by invoking the aid of the courts and need not wait until the board has made a final order. Here again a word of caution is necessary. Where the contention is that the board is acting beyond its jurisdiction, the board should have an opportunity to ascertain the facts and decide the question for itself; but if it appears that the commission, instead of insisting upon its rights to determine its jurisdiction, submits to the court all the facts material to the question, leaving open only the question of law whether on those facts it has the power to entertain the proceedings, and that the facts thus disclosed clearly establish the lack of jurisdiction, we think that a citizen should not be compelled in such circumstances to participate in further proceedings before the commission and that the court may, if necessary, restrain any further action by the commission. Vermont & Massachusetts Railroad v. County Commissioners of Franklin, 10 Cush. 12;Connecticut River Railroad v. County Commissioners of Franklin, 127 Mass. 50, 34 Am.Rep. 338;Chandler v. Railroad Commissioners, 141 Mass. 208, 5 N.E. 509;Hathaway Bakeries, Inc., v. Labor Relations Commission, 316 Mass. 136, 55 N.E.2d 254;Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., v. New York, 276 N.Y. 198, 11 N.E.2d 728;Bank of Yorktown v. Boland, 280 N.Y. 673, 21 N.E.2d 191;Bee Hive Mining Co. v. Industrial Commission, 144 Va. 240, 132 S.E. 177;Long Flame Coal Co. v. State Compensation Commissioner, 111 W.Va. 409, 163 S.E. 16.

We now pass to the only question of substantive law presented by the record and consider whether the hospital comes within the sweep of the State labor relations act. The policy of that act, as already intimated, is the promotion of peace and the prevention of strikes in order that there may be no obstructions to the free flow of industry and trade. Various sections of the act establish the means that are to be utilized to accomplish this general purpose....

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