Federal Labor Relations

The Federal Service Labor-management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 71, governs the labor-management relations program in the Federal government. The program is based on the Congressional finding that unions and collective bargaining are in the public interest. It prescribes certain rights and obligations of employees, unions, and Federal management and establishes procedures for resolving issues that arise under the program. The program is to be applied consistent with the requirement of an effective and efficient Federal government.

The program applies to most Executive agencies, to the Library of Congress, and to the Government Printing Office. Certain agencies are specifically excluded from coverage of the program. The President may exclude others by Presidential Executive Order. Executive Order 12171, with amendments, identifies those organizations exempt from coverage of the Federal Labor-Management Relations Program.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (the Authority, or FLRA) is the administrative agency responsible for administering the labor relations program. The Authority is composed of three members appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Not more than two members of the Authority can be adherents of the same political party. The President designates one member to be the Chair. The members can only be removed for cause.

The Authority is responsible for

  • Determining the appropriateness of collective bargaining units
  • Supervising or conducting elections to determine if a union has been selected as the exclusive representative
  • Prescribing criteria and resolving issues relating to the granting of National Consultation Rights and Consultation Rights on Government-wide rules and regulations
  • Resolving issues relating to the duty to bargain
  • Resolving unfair labor practice complaints
  • Resolving negotiability disputes
  • Resolving exceptions to arbitration awards

The Authority has a General Counsel who is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate for a term of five years. The President can remove the General Counsel from office at any time. The General Counsel investigates alleged unfair labor practice charges and files and prosecutes unfair labor practice complaints. The General Counsel also exercises other authorities prescribed by the Authority (e.g., determines the appropriateness of bargaining units and conducts representation elections).

The Federal Service Impasses Panel (the Panel or FSIP) is an entity within the Authority. The Panel is responsible for providing assistance in resolving negotiation impasses between unions and management. The Panel is composed of a Chairman and at least six other members who are appointed by the President for a five-year term. Individuals are selected to serve on the Panel based on their fitness to perform Panel duties and functions. They must be familiar with Government operations and knowledgeable about labor-management relations. The President may remove panel members.

To carry out their responsibilities, the Authority, the General Counsel, and the Panel issue regulations. Those regulations are published in 5 CFR Chapter XIV, sections 2411-2473.

Content last reviewed: 11/15/2016-DAH