The Federal Civil Service Reform Act

Title VII of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978132 governs federal employer and employee labor relations. It specifically declares labor organizations and collective bargaining in the civil service to be "in the public interest." Accordingly, the act provides federal employees with legal rights similar to private-sector workers' Section 7 rights under the NLRA. The act states that employees of the federal government have "the right to form, join, or assist any labor organization, or to refrain from any such activity, freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal, and each employee shall be protected in the exercise of such right."

The Civil Service Reform Act created the Federal Labor Relations Authority133 (FLRA) to "establish policies and guidance" for the administration of the labor-management relations provisions of the act. The FLRA

  • determines the composition of employee bargaining units;

  • supervises or conducts union representation elections;

  • conducts hearings to resolve complaints of unfair labor practices;

  • resolves issues involving the duty to bargain in good faith; and

  • resolves any exceptions (appeals) to arbitrators' awards.

The unfair labor practice provisions of Title VII are similar to those of the NLRA; however, there are five major differences between private-sector employees under the NLRA and federal employees under the Civil Service Reform Act as follows:

  1. Federal employees are denied by statute the right to strike.

  3. The right of federal employees to picket is limited to informational picketing only. It is an unfair labor practice for a labor organization to picket a federal agency in a labor-management dispute if such picketing interferes with an agency's operations.

  5. The scope of mandatory collective bargaining for federal employees is limited to personnel employment practices only. Basic working conditions such as wages, hours of work, and employee benefits are instead subject to statutory provisions.

  7. Union and agency contract provisions as well as all other forms of compulsory union support are prohibited in the federal civil service.

Recognition of labor organizations as exclusive employee representatives occurs only by a majority vote of employees through a secret-ballot election.