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NLRB v. COMMITTEE OF INTERNS & RESIDENTS

January 31, 1977

National Labor Relations Board, Plaintiff
v.
Committee Of Interns And Residents, et al., Defendants


Stewart, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: STEWART

STEWART, D.J.:

Plaintiff National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB" or "the Board") has brought this action in federal court seeking to enjoin defendant Committee of Interns and Residents ("CIR") from attempting to require co-defendant New York State Labor Relations Board ("SLRB") to assert jurisdiction over any of the unfair labor practice charges and the representation petition filed by the CIR against various voluntary, non-profit hospitals in the New York City area. The CIR is a labor organization whose members are physicians working in training programs as interns, residents and clinical fellows ("housestaff") in these hospitals. Plaintiff also seeks to enjoin defendant SLRB from considering, or in any way asserting jurisdiction over, these labor disputes. Plaintiff seeks this relief on the ground that this area of labor relations has been preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq. ("NLRA" or "the Act") and is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB. Plaintiff also seeks a declaratory judgment that these matters are preempted by the aforementioned federal statute.

 Defendant CIR has cross-moved for summary judgment alleging that this court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action and that, on the merits, the NLRA has not preempted this area of labor relations. Defendant SLRB has taken no position, but has informed the Court that it will comply with the judgment of this Court or any other court of competent jurisdiction. *fn1"

 Factual Background

 The question presented by this action is whether housestaff physicians, working and training in voluntary non-profit hospitals in New York State, may be covered under the New York State Labor Relations Act, Labor Law § 700 et seq. (McKinney's 1965) ("SLRA"), or whether they are covered exclusively by the NLRA.

 Section 701(12) of the Labor Law extends the coverage of the SLRA to "any person employed or permitted to work by or at a non-profitmaking hospital or residential care center." The SLRB has interpreted this to include housestaff. Long Island College Hospital, 33 SLRB No. 32 (1967); Brooklyn Eye and Ear Hospital, 32 SLRB No. 21 (1966). For a considerable period of time, the SLRB and hospitals have recognized the CIR (as provided by § 705 of the SLRA), as the exclusive bargaining representative of housestaff physicians in a substantial number of voluntary, non-profit hospitals in the New York City area. During this time, the CIR has negotiated collective bargaining agreements on behalf of its members with these hospitals.

 Prior to 1974, there was no conflict between this coverage under the SLRA and the NLRA, because the NLRA had excluded from its definition of "employer" any "corporation or association operating a hospital, if no part of the net earnings inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual" (repealed 29 U.S.C. § 152(2)). However, effective August 25, 1974, Congress deleted this exclusion from § 152(2), and extended the coverage of the NLRA to any "health care institution" which is defined as

 
. . . any hospital, convalescent hospital, health maintenance organization, health clinic, nursing home, extended care facility, or other institution devoted to the care of sick, infirm or aged person . . . 29 U.S.C. § 152(14).

 There appears to be no dispute that this amendment brought labor relations between voluntary, non-profit hospitals and their "employees" as defined in Section 2(3) within the jurisdiction of the NLRA. This by no means, though, disposes of the question of whether housestaff physicians are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRA.

 The NLRB first considered the situation of housestaff in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 223 N.L.R.B. 251, 223 NLRB No. 57, 91 LRRM 1398 (March 19, 1976), and concluded (with Member Fanning dissenting at length) that

 
. . . interns, residents, and clinical fellows, although they possess certain employee characteristics, are primarily students. Accordingly . . . we conclude that the interns, residents and clinical fellows . . . are not "employees" within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the Act. Id. at 3.

 In light of this conclusion, the NLRB found that the Cedars-Sinai Housestaff Association, which was comprised solely of housestaff physicians, was not a labor organization within the meaning of § 152(5) of the NLRA. The NLRB then dismissed the Association's petition to certify a bargaining unit of housestaff physicians on the ground that it presented "no question affecting commerce . . . concerning the representation of 'employees' of the Employer within the meaning . . . of the Act" 223 NLRB No. 57 at 8. This view was adhered to without modification in a number of subsequent cases involving housestaff in hospitals around the country. *fn2"

 Following this decision, Misericordia Hospital Medical Center refused to recognize or bargain with the CIR, so the CIR petitioned the SLRB for certification based on the CIR's claim that it represented a majority of the housestaff at Misericordia. In addition, other hospitals, where the CIR had been recognized and certified as the exclusive bargaining representative for housestaff, also refused to bargain with the CIR, so the CIR filed with the SLRB unfair labor practice charges against these hospitals. In all these cases, the hospitals refused to recognize or bargain with the CIR because of the NLRB's ruling in Cedars-Sinai. Further, the hospitals objected to the proceedings before the SLRB on the ground that the 1974 health care amendments to the NLRA had preempted state regulation of labor relations in the health care field.

 While these proceedings were pending before the SLRB, the NLRB issued its decision in Kansas City General Hospital, 225 NLRB No. 14 (June 24, 1976), in which it reiterated the Cedars-Sinai finding that housestaff physicians are not "employees" within the meaning of the NLRA, and concluded that the hospital there involved was

 
. . . not an "employer" within the meaning of Section 2(2) of the Act for the purposes of any disputes relating to such personnel.

 In the CIR proceedings before the SLRB, the jurisdictional issue was briefed, and on July 14, 1976, the SLRB dismissed the representation petition stating:

 
The question of possible state jurisdiction here is certainly not free from doubt. Cogent arguments can be, and have been made on both sides of this issue. On balance, we have concluded that further processing of this matter before this Board is not warranted at this time. Misericordia Hospital Medical Center, 39 SLRB No. 32.

 The unfair labor practice charges against the other hospitals were also dismissed for the same reason.

 The CIR then commenced a number of Article 78 proceedings (New York CPLR § 7801 et seq. (McKinney's 1963)) in New York State Supreme Court asking the Court to vacate the SLRB's dismissals and order the SLRB to assert jurisdiction over the CIR's claims. Initially, the SLRB alone was named as defendant in these state court actions. However, a number of hospitals moved to intervene as defendants and did so by stipulation of the parties. Thereafter, the intervenors sought to remove several of the actions to federal court. Their petitions were denied on September 28, 1976 by Judge Brieant of this Court on the ground that the federal preemption question was not presented as part of the plaintiff's claim in state court, but only appeared as a defense, so there was no federal jurisdictional basis for removal. 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

 Upon remand, Justice Gellinoff of the New York State Supreme Court vacated the SLRB's determinations dismissing the CIR's representation petition and unfair labor practice charges, and remanded them to the SLRB for further consideration. Justice Gellinoff concluded that, in light of 1) the NLRB's finding in Cedars-Sinai concerning the "employee" status of housestaff physicians, 2) its further determination in Kansas City that hospitals were not "employers" within the meaning of the NLRA for the purpose of disputes relating to housestaff, and 3) the absence of any language either in the NLRA or the Board's decision indicating the intention that "these vital members of the hospital's working staff should be bereft of any labor regulation at all,"

 
. . . the jurisdiction of respondent State Board over disputes between petitioner and the intervening hospitals is unaffected by the 1974 amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, and therefore the Board retains the same jurisdiction it previously possessed. 420 F. Supp. 826, 93 LRRM 2540 (October 14, 1976).

 In response to Justice Gellinoff's decision, the NLRB sua sponte reconsidered and revised its opinion in Kansas City. In its revised order of November 8, 1976, the Board (Member Fanning dissenting) announced that it would delete the finding in its original decision that the hospital was not an "employer" under the NLRA for the purposes of any disputes relating to housestaff, and that it relied simply on the Cedars-Sinai holding that housestaff are not "employees" under the NLRA as grounds for dismissing the union's petition. The Board then directly addressed the preemption question presented in the instant case, and concluded that there was federal preemption of labor relations in the health care field. The Board stated:

 
Turning to the preemption question, we believe that it has now become necessary for us to state explicitly that which is, in our view, implicit in the Board's Decision in Cedars-Sinai ; that is, at the risk of being somewhat repetitious, that the majority of this Board intended by its decision therein to find federal preemption of the health care field to preclude States from exercising their power to regulate in this area. It is our judgment that the Congress, in passing the 1974 health care amendments, simply made a determination that residents, interns, and fellows, inter alia, were not supervisors within the meaning of the Act, but left the question as to whether they were "employees" entitled to collective-bargaining rights for resolution by the Board in the exercise of its discretion. Having exercised its discretion in Cedars-Sinai, by finding residents, interns and fellows to be primarily students and not "employees" within the meaning of the Act, the Board confirmed, in our view, that it has not put hospital residents and interns beyond the reach of national labor policy, but has rather held that to extend them collective-bargaining rights would be contrary to that very policy. 225 NLRB No. 14A at 4-5 (footnotes omitted).

 This action was commenced by the NLRB on November 16, 1977. The Court has been informed that there is no other federal action pending in which the NLRB's ruling on federal preemption in Kansas City is directly being reviewed (Transcript of December 10, 1976 hearing pp. 55-6).

 An appeal from Justice Gellinoff's decision was taken by the defendant hospitals and was pending before the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, when this federal action was filed. However, in light of the Board's revised decision in Kansas City, several of the hospitals also moved to reargue before Justice Gellinoff. On January 6, 1977, the motion was granted and Justice Gellinoff vacated his previous decision and dismissed the CIR's petitions on the ground that he was bound by the Board's subsequent ruling on preemption. On January 20, 1977 Justice Gellinoff denied the CIR's request that he reconsider his January 6, 1977 ruling. The Court has been informed that the CIR has filed a notice of appeal from the dismissal, and that the Appellate Division has provided for an expedited briefing schedule and oral argument in early March (January 26, 1977 letter of Daniel Riesel representing amicus Albert Einstein College of Medicine).

 Jurisdiction

 The jurisdiction of this Court has been invoked under 28 U.S.C. § 1337 as the action arises under the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. The CIR has asserted, however, that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that 28 U.S.C. § 2283 bars this Court from granting either the injunctive or declaratory relief sought and that no exception to § 2283 is applicable here. The CIR further contends that this Court is barred by principles of federalism and equity from granting the injunctive relief sought.

 First, we agree that the relief sought in this case does fall within the prohibition of § 2283 which states:

 
A court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments.

 Here, defendant CIR initiated state court proceedings, long before this case was filed, in which it sought review of the SLRB's dismissal of the CIR's representative petition and unfair labor practice charges and a determination that the SLRB did have jurisdiction over the CIR's labor disputes with the hospitals. These state court proceedings are still pending -- at this point at ...


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