American Hospital Association v. National Labor Relations Board

PETITIONER: American Hospital Association
RESPONDENT: National Labor Relations Board
LOCATION: Louisiana General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 90-97
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 499 US 606 (1991)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1991
DECIDED: Apr 23, 1991

David L. Shapiro - on behalf of the Respondents
James D. Holzhauer - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for American Hospital Association v. National Labor Relations Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 1991 in American Hospital Association v. National Labor Relations Board

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 23, 1991 in American Hospital Association v. National Labor Relations Board

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-97 American Hospital Association versus National Labor Relations Board will be announced by Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

This case requires us to review the first exercise of substantive rule making by the National Labor Relations Board.

The board promulgated a rule providing that with limited exceptions including an exception for cases presenting extraordinary circumstances, eight and only eight bargaining units are appropriate for collective bargaining in acute care hospitals.

Petitioner, American Hospital Association, brought this challenge to the facial validity of the rule.

Petitioner raised three arguments; first, that Section 9(b) of the National Labor Relations Act requires the board to make a separate bargaining unit determination in each case, those are words from the statute, and therefore, prohibits the board from using general rules to define units.

Second, that, the rule violates a congressional admonition to the board to give due consideration to preventing proliferation of bargaining units in the healthcare industry.

And finally, that the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

The District Court agreed with the second argument and enjoined the rule.

The Seventh Circuit found no merit to any of the arguments and reversed.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we affirm the Court of Appeals

The board's rule making powers are not limited by Section 9(b)'s requirement that the board decide the bargaining unit in each case.

The phrase, in each case, simply indicates that whenever there is a disagreement between employers and employees about the appropriateness of a bargaining unit, the board shall resolve the dispute.

Even when an agency is required to exercise individualized discretion in each case, the agency has authority to formulate rules of general applicability to guide the exercise of its discretion unless Congress clearly indicates an intent to withhold this authority.

The rule is not invalid because of the congressional admonition that the board should give due consideration to avoiding proliferation of bargaining unit.

Even if the courts should properly enforce an admonition in legislative history tied to no specific language and a statute, the board in any event complied with the admonition.

An admonition of this sort is best understood as a warning by Congress that it will take legislative action if the board does not heed congressional wishes.

Finally, the rule is not arbitrary and capricious, but is based on a reasoned analysis of an extensive rule making record and on the board's years of experience in the adjudication of healthcare cases.

Our opinion is unanimous.