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Federal Employees Covered Under the Labor-Management Relations Statute

In 1962, federal employees were first granted the right to participate in collective bargaining through labor unions of their choice. That right was expanded and solidified in Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, known as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. Congress declared in the statute that labor unions and collective bargaining in the federal civil service are in the “public interest.”

Covered Federal Employees

The statute grants covered federal employees the right to form or join labor unions and to engage in collective bargaining. It also guarantees these employees the right to refrain from union activity if they so choose. The statute ensures that employees are free to exercise their rights without penalty or reprisal.

Excluded Federal Employers

The statute, while applying to most federal executive agencies, specifically excludes the following federal employers from its scope:

  • the General Accounting Office
  • the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • the Central Intelligence Agency
  • the National Security Agency
  • the Tennessee Valley Authority
  • the Federal Labor Relations Authority
  • the Federal Service Impasses Panel
  • the United States Secret Service and the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division.

Types of Employees not Granted Right to Organize into Unions

Furthermore, the Statute does not grant the following types of employees the right to organize into unions:

  • most management officials or supervisors
  • confidential employees
  • employees engaged in personnel work (unless its strictly clerical)
  • employees engaged in administering the statute
  • professional employees and other employees, unless a majority of the professional employees vote for inclusion in a particular bargaining unit
  • employees engaged in intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative, or security work which directly affects national security
  • employees primarily engaged in investigative work when that work exists to ensure that the duties of other employees within the agency are discharged honestly and with integrity.

Statute Requirements

In addition to allowing federal employees to organize into unions, the statute spells out the labor organization process in the federal sector. It also specifies activities by both federal agencies and labor unions that are illegal under the statute. These activities, called “unfair labor practices,” include activities such as interfering with an employee’s rights under the statute. Both representative unions and covered agencies are required under the statute to bargain in good faith with each other. To fail to do so is also an unfair labor practice.


The statute tasks the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) with overseeing compliance with the statute. If an employee, an agency or a union has a complaint alleging that an agency or a union has violated the statute, the party may file a complaint with the FLRA. The General Counsel, which is an independent office within the FLRA, is responsible for investigating and prosecuting unfair labor practice allegations and representation matters. The statute also provides that an aggrieved party may appeal a final ruling by the FLRA to the proper federal circuit court of appeals.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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