Union recognition within the Department of the Army is extensive. As of 2016, approximately 124,000 appropriated fund employees are represented by unions in 471 separate collective bargaining units and about 12,000 non-appropriated fund employees are represented by unions in 48 collective bargaining units.
In the vast majority of cases, unions hold exclusive recognition in the Army at the activity or installation level. Some unions, typically within the Corps of Engineers, hold recognition at higher organizational levels (e.g., National Maritime Union).
Where a union has exclusive recognition, management is obligated to deal with the union, and only the union, regarding the working conditions of employees within the bargaining unit. Such dealings, which must occur before management changes working conditions of these employees, may occur in the context of collective bargaining or labor-management council discussions.
Seven unions have national consultation rights with the Department. They are:
- American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
- National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE)
- National Association of Government Employees (NAGE)
- International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM&AW)
- Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT)
- International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE)
- Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA)
Headquarters, Department of the Army, must notify these unions before it makes substantive changes in the working conditions of civilian employees represented by these unions and give the unions an opportunity to provide their views on the changes. This usually occurs when there are proposed changes to Army regulations. The Department must consider any union comments and respond to those unions providing comments. The Army's obligation is to consult; it is not obligated to negotiate with the national unions over the changes. The obligation to bargain over changes to working conditions rests at the level of exclusive recognition; normally at the installation level.