Federal Labor Relations Authority

Chapter 10: Section 6

General Responsibilities

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) interprets and enforces the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (5 U.S.C. 71), which protects the rights of employees of the federal government to organize, bargain collectively, and participate through labor organizations of their choosing in decisions that affect them. The Authority also ensures compliance with the statutory rights and obligations of federal employees and labor organizations tin their dealings with federal agencies. The FLRA can be contacted at: 1400 K St. N.W., Washington, DC 20424; (202) 218-7770, www.flra.gov.

Labor Relations Role

The Authority provides leadership in establishing policies and guidance relating to the federal service labor-management relations program. In addition, FLRA:

  • determines the appropriateness of bargaining units;
  • supervises or conducts representation elections;
  • prescribes criteria and resolves issues relating to the granting of consultation rights to labor organizations with respect to internal agency policies and government-wide rules and regulations;
  • resolves negotiability disputes, unfair labor practice complaints, and exceptions to arbitration awards; and
  • takes other actions needed to administer the statute

The jurisdiction of the FLRA extends to Executive Branch agencies as well as the Library of Congress and Government Printing Office, both Legislative Branch agencies, and to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in that area of the Republic of Panama formerly known as the Canal Zone. Agencies not within FLRA jurisdiction include the Government Accountability Office, the Postal Service, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and intelligence agencies.

For information on labor policies, see Chapter 8, Section 6.

Organization and Structure

The Authority is composed of three members appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation, for a five-year term. One member is designated by the President as the chairman and serves as the chief executive and administrative officer of the Authority. The general counsel is appointed by the President subject to confirmation for a five-year term. The chairman and general counsel also serve in those roles on the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board, which administers a separate labor-management relations program for Foreign Service personnel.

Office of Administrative Law Judges—The administrative law judges (ALJs) hear unfair labor practice complaints and issue decisions which are reviewed by the Authority members who can affirm, modify, or reverse an ALJ’s recommendation. A small number of cases come as stipulated records, directly to the Authority without ALJ involvement.

Office of the Solicitor—The FLRA may seek enforcement of its decisions and orders in a U.S. circuit court of appeals. Any person aggrieved by a final order of the FLRA can institute an action for judicial review in the court of appeals, requiring the FLRA to defend its final order in court. The Office of the Solicitor is responsible for this representation. Additionally, the solicitor’s office advises the authority on legal questions presented by major case decisions and policy statements and the impact of statutes, executive orders, and regulations on case processing.

Collaboration and Alternative Dispute Resolution—The Collaboration and Alternative Dispute Resolution program (CADR) integrates alternative dispute resolution (ADR) into all of FLRA’s case processes, that is, negotiability, arbitration, representation, unfair labor practice, and impasse bargaining processes. CADR provides prevention and intervention, ADR design, and facilitation and training services to parties on a joint and voluntary basis in pending cases and case-related matters. See Section 7 of this chapter.

Office of the General Counsel—This office is responsible for investigating alleged unfair labor practices, filing and prosecuting unfair labor practice complaints, and processing representation petitions, including representation elections to determine whether employees wish to be represented by a labor organization. The general counsel’s decision to sustain a regional director’s dismissal of an unfair labor practice charge is final. The general counsel also oversees the Authority’s regional offices.

Regional Offices—FLRA regional offices (see accompanying table) are responsible for initially investigating and processing all representation and unfair labor practice cases.

The Foreign Service Labor Relations Board—The FSLRB is composed of three members and administers the labor-management relations program for Foreign Service employees in the U.S. Information Agency, the Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State, Agriculture and Commerce.

The Foreign Service Impasse Disputes Panel—The Disputes Panel consists of five part-time members and resolves impasses between federal agencies and Foreign Service personnel in those agencies.

The Federal Service Impasses Panel

The role of the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) is to provide assistance to federal agencies and unions representing federal employees in resolving impasses arising from negotiations over conditions of employment. The FSIP can be contacted at: 1400 K St. N.W., Suite 200, Washington, DC 20424-0001, phone (202) 218-7790, fax (202) 482-6674, and at www.flra.gov/fsip.

If bargaining between the parties and mediation assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service prove unsuccessful, the panel, as an entity within the Federal Labor Relations Authority, has authority to recommend procedures, such as arbitration, for the resolution of an impasse. It also provides direct assistance to the parties through fact-finding, written submissions, or other methods. If these efforts do not lead to a settlement, the panel may take whatever action is necessary to resolve the impasse. Such final action, typically an arbitration award or a decision and order of the panel itself, is binding on the parties during the term of their agreement unless they agree otherwise. If the parties to a negotiation impasse agree to use a private arbitrator, the procedure must be approved by the panel.

The statute also assigns special third-party functions to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) and to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of the American Workplace, an agency and entity outside the Federal Labor Relations Authority. FMCS provides services and assistance to agencies and exclusive representatives in the resolution of negotiation impasses, prior to or in conjunction with the panel. The assistant secretary enforces standards of conduct for unions governing democratic process and fiscal integrity.

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