Introduction - "FLRA 20 Years 1979 - 1999"


"The right of Federal employees to organize, bargain collectively, and participate through labor organizations in decisions which affect them, with full regard for the public interest and the effective conduct of public business, should be specifically recognized in statute." Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, Sec.3(10)

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) was born on January 1, 1979. Its structure, mission and authority were imposed 10 days later by Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, when Congress enacted the first comprehensive reform of the Federal civil service system in the 20th Century.

Created to preside over the first statutory labor-management relations program covering Federal employees, the FLRA was in part an amalgam of entities established by Presidential Executive Order in 1969. But it was also a brand new agency, with expanded powers and offices that were designed to enable it to carry out its mission of encouraging collective bargaining while safeguarding the "efficient accomplishment" of government operations.

To accomplish these mandates, Congress structured the FLRA as three distinct components: the Authority, the three-member, bipartisan administrative tribunal that, among other enumerated powers, would resolve representation claims, negotiability issues, unfair labor practice complaints and exceptions to arbitration awards; the Office of the General Counsel, which would investigate and prosecute unfair labor practice charges; and the seven-member Federal Service Impasses Panel (the Panel), which would provide assistance in resolving bargaining impasses. The Authority Members, the General Counsel and the Panel Members are appointed by the President for 5-year terms. All but the Panel Members are subject to Senate confirmation. The President designates one of the Authority Members to serve as Chair of the Authority and as the FLRA's Chief Executive and Administrative Officer.

Twenty years later and at the brink of a new century, this publication briefly describes the FLRA's history and where the agency is headed. No vital organization can remain unchanged after 20 years, and the FLRA is no exception. Legal decisions and regulations have defined and clarified provisions of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute); agency regulations -- as originally adopted and subsequently revised -- have enabled the FLRA to carry out its statutory responsibilities; the agency's workforce has shrunk and been restructured; alternative methods for resolving disputes and collaborative systems to avoid escalating disputes have, to an increasing extent, become central to good labor-management relations.

As the FLRA refines its programs, it remains determined to fulfill its statutory role of providing the necessary leadership to help Federal managers, labor organizations and employees work together productively and resolve problems constructively. Entering its 21st year, the FLRA is pursuing this goal in many ways as described throughout this publication. It is continually expanding its outreach to labor and management in order to communicate its actions and understand the changing nature of labor-management relations in the Federal sector. New regulations covering all three statutory components have created procedures that make the FLRA's programs more accessible and collaborative resolution of disputes more likely. These programs have been recognized for their creativity and effectiveness, and the Authority's decisions are gaining increasing deference from the courts. During its first 20 years this small, but complex, independent agency has met many challenges; it recognizes that much remains to be accomplished.

The chapters that follow briefly review how and why the FLRA was created, and issues that it has faced in administering the Statute, including trends in labor law and labor relations over the past 20 years. You will read about how the agency's decisions and judicial review have shaped the meaning and application of the Statute's provisions. Finally, you will learn a