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Alphabet Soup: NLRB, NMB, FMCS

This is the third in a series of introductory guides to help you navigate the alphabet soup of federal labor and employment agencies.  Throughout the federal government, there is agency overlap and the pendulum often swings with each new President in the White House.  Ultimately, the general framework for each agency’s mission and the statutes they enforce remains little changed.  Below is an introductory guide to the National Labor Relations Board, National Mediation Board, and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help you better understand their missions and mandates.     

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

NLRB was established in 1935 by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) as an independent agency tasked with protecting employees’ freedom of association, including the right to organize, seek improved working conditions, choose whether to have a representative negotiate on their behalf, or refrain from doing any of the above.  NLRB also conducts union representation secret ballot elections and enforces the statute and these rights with respect to unions and private sector employers.  NLRB has jurisdiction over private-sector and Postal Service employees; public-sector employees are excluded from coverage.  

NLRB’s Mission:  “To safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”

For more information about the NLRB you can visit its website here.

National Mediation Board (NMB)

NMB was established by the 1934 amendments to the Railway Labor Act of 1926 (RLA) as an independent federal agency facilitating labor relations (including pay, working conditions, and work rules) between employees and employers within the airline and railroad industries, including union elections and labor disputes.  NMB provides arbitration, mediation, and representation services to these industries. 

NMB’s Mission:  “To promote harmonious labor relations in the airline and railroad industries in the United States in order to best avoid an interruption to commerce or to the operation of any carrier engaged therein.”

For more information about the NMB you can visit its website here.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS)

FMCS was established in 1947 by the Labor-Management Relations Act (also known as the Taft-Hartley Act) and provides employment-based arbitration, conflict resolution, and mediation services for government agencies.  FMCS is intended to help prevent disruptions to commerce from labor disputes, strikes, or lockouts.  If FMCS assistance is unsuccessful, parties can request assistance from the Federal Service Impasses Panel (more on this below).  Over time, FMCS’s jurisdiction has expanded to providing the private sector labor-management programs and employment-based mediation.  FMCS’s jurisdiction does not extend to the airline and railroad industries, which are covered by the NMB. 

FMCS’s Mission:  “To build better, more effective workplace relationships and mitigate the damage from inevitable conflict through preventive dialogue, honest communication, and responsive strategies.”

For more information about the FMCS you can visit its website here.

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