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Law School Case Brief

Am. Hosp. Ass'n v. NLRB - 499 U.S. 606, 111 S. Ct. 1539 (1991)


Pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 103.30, the National Labor Relations Board promulgates a substantive rule defining the employee units appropriate for collective bargaining in a particular line of commerce. The rule is applicable to acute care hospitals and provides, with three exceptions, that eight, and only eight, units shall be appropriate in any such hospital. The three exceptions are for cases that present extraordinary circumstances, cases in which nonconforming units already exist, and cases in which labor organizations seek to combine two or more of the eight specified units. The extraordinary circumstance exception applies automatically to hospitals in which the eight-unit rule will produce a unit of five or fewer employees.


Petitioner American Hospital Association ("AHA") filed a lawsuit in federal district court against respondent National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") challenging the facial validity of § 9(b) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 159(a). Section 9(b) provided that, with exceptions for, inter alia, cases presenting "extraordinary circumstances," eight defined employee units were appropriate for collective bargaining in acute care hospitals. The AHA argued, inter alia, that § 9(b) violated a congressional admonition that the NLRB avoid the undue proliferation of bargaining units in the health care industry. The district court agreed with the AHA and enjoined enforcement of § 9(b). On the NLRB's appeal, the court of appeals rejected the AHA's arguments and reversed the district court's judgment. The AHA was granted a writ of certiorari.


Was § 9(b) of National Labor Relations Act facially invalid?




The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the appellate court's judgment. The Court found that § 9(b) did not differ significantly from the NLRB's many prior rules establishing general principles for the adjudication of bargaining unit disputes. Moreover, § 9(b) was not rendered invalid by the congressional admonition, which, the Court determined, was best understood as a congressional warning to the NLRB. The Court opined that Congress was free to fashion a remedy for noncompliance if it believed that the NLRB did not give "due consideration" to the problem of proliferation in health care industry. The Court further concluded that the statutory authorization "from time to time to make, amend, and rescind" rules and regulations expressly contemplated the possibility that the NLRB would reshape its policies on the basis of more information and experience in the administration of the National Labor Relations Act.

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