The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is an independent agency of the U.S. government. It was established by Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1978, with its duties and authorities specified in title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, often referred to as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. The purpose of the FLRA is to provide a collective bargaining framework for various classifications of federal service workers. As a result the FLRA is involved in virtually every aspect of the labor-management relationship that exists between the federal government and many of its workers. The FLRA is also charged with overseeing labor unions representing federal employees and any federal agency activity associated with labor relations. Twenty years after its establishment, the FLRA administers labor-management programs for approximately 2.1 million nonpostal federal employees, including federal workers assigned outside of the country. Incorporated in this figure are the 1.3 million employees represented by more than 2,200 bargaining units.
The FLRA is divided into three offices: the Authority, the Office of the General Counsel, and the Federal Service Impasses Panel. The offices operate independently of one another, making the FLRA "three agencies consolidated in one."
The Authority is a quasi-judicial body whose three full-time members are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. One member is named by the president to be the chair of the Authority. This appointee also serves as the chief executive and administrative officer of the FLRA. The Authority has numerous responsibilities but its most important is hearing appeals to decisions made by the general counsel. These decisions deal with collective bargaining agreement proposals, unfair labor practices, unfair representation petitions, and exceptions to grievance arbitration awards. The Authority also advises federal agencies and unions of their statute rights and responsibilities and promotes cooperative relationships in an effort to prevent disputes from reaching adjudication.
The general counsel is also appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate and is responsible for managing and overseeing the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and the FLRA's seven regional offices. The OGC is responsible for inquiring into and settling unfair labor practice complaints. When necessary, complaints are prosecuted, but as a case proceeds all efforts are made to encourage a settlement by employing various dispute resolution procedures. When a regional director declines to act on an unfair labor practice complaint, that decision is automatically reviewed by the OGC.
The Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) is composed of seven part time presidential appointees. The FSIP is responsible for resolving impasses that occur between a federal agency and a union emanating from talks related to conditions of employment covered by the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute, the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act, and the Panama Canal Act of 1979. The FSIP has the authority to resolve impasses when bargaining and mediation fail.
The FSIP also has authority over U.S. Foreign Service workers by providing support for the Foreign Service Impasse Disputes Panel (FSIDP). Created under the authority of the Foreign Services Act of 1980 the FSIDP resolves deadlocks between federal agencies and Foreign Service workers employed by the U.S. Information Agency, the Agency for International Development, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and State. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 also created the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board which administers labor-management relation agendas for Foreign Service employees of the above agencies and departments.
The FLRA is committed to programs of alternative dispute resolution with the aim of reducing labor-management friction and strife. As mentioned above, both the Office of the General Counsel and the Federal Service Impasses Panel have alternative dispute resolution procedures. In addition, the FLRA has the Collaboration and Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (CADR) and the Office of Administrative Law Judges. Begun in 1996 the CADR is an agency-wide program which develops and provides a framework for labor-management cooperation and alternative dispute resolution procedures. The Office of Administrative Law Judges is responsible for the Unfair Labor Practice Trial Settlement Project, which fosters "the efficient and voluntary settlement of unfair labor practice complaints." Before a complaint is adjudicated, a judge or settlement attorney is assigned by the chief administrative law judge to conduct settlement negotiations in hopes of avoiding a trial.
[ Michael Knes ]
Federal Labor Relations Authority. "Federal Labor Relations Authority: FLRA." Washington: Federal Labor Relations Authority, 1998. Available from www.flra.gov .
Ingraham, Patricia W., and David H. Rosenbloom. The Promise and Paradox of Civil Service Reform. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992.