Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), established into law a system for Federal employees to form, join, or assist any labor organization, or refrain from any such activity, freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal. Once formed, these labor organizations exclusively represent the bargaining unit employees in all matters affecting their working conditions. This portion of the CSRA U.S. Code (Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code) is referred to as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute.)
Well over half of the Army civilian work force is represented by labor unions. There are three predominant labor organizations currently representing Army civilian employees:
- American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
- National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE)
- National Association of Government Employees (NAGE)
Although most local unions are nationally affiliated, its local officers and stewards are normally members of the installation's work force and have been elected or appointed to office by the local union membership. (Management is not involved in this selection process.)
The Statute requires supervisors to deal exclusively with the certified labor union on establishing or modifying conditions of employment affecting bargaining unit employees. This means that supervisors and management officials cannot negotiate over personnel policies, practices, or working conditions directly with bargaining unit employees. Rather, these dealings must be accomplished solely with the union officials representing them. Failure to adhere to this requirement (known as bypassing the union) may result in an unfair labor practice with management's actions being reversed until the requirement to negotiate with the union, if requested, has been satisfied.