The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Should Strive To Avoid Mediating Minor Disputes

HRD-81-14: Published: Oct 30, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 1980.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reviewed the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service's (FMCS) activities to determine whether they were within the authority of enabling legislation, and to evaluate the adequacy of the FMCS management practices for determining jurisdiction in a labor dispute and for reporting on resources used. GAO focused its analysis on the 19 states which have mediation services. FMCS was created to promote industrial peace and the nation's economic welfare by resolving labor disputes through collective bargaining. The Taft-Hartley Act provides for FMCS involvement in any labor dispute in industries affecting commerce if, in FMCS judgment, such a dispute threatens to cause a substantial interruption of interstate commerce. FMCS is directed to avoid attempting to mediate disputes that have only a minor impact on interstate commerce if state services are available. State and local governments are specifically excluded from the act's coverage.

GAO found that FMCS has not followed the criteria provided by statute. FMCS involvement was questionable in 103 of the 404 dispute mediation cases which were reviewed. FMCS did not make a determination of the potential for substantial interruption of interstate commerce before it became involved. Instead, FMCS considered such factors as the number of employees in the union, the potential impact on the local community, whether the FMCS assistance was asked, and whether FMCS had mediated the parties' last dispute. FMCS has not determined which states have inadequate mediation services. Sixty-five percent of the FMCS workload was in states having mediation services. It had not established the cooperative agreements with states having mediation services authorized by the act. The act specifically excludes, by definition, state and local governments from FMCS coverage, but FMCS has mediated state and local public employee disputes, and involvement in these disputes is increasing. About one-half of the FMCS public sector mediations in fiscal year 1978 were in states that had legislated procedures to resolve state and local public employee disputes. FMCS does not have adequate information on the use of its staff resources. FMCS needs information on caseload time for allocating resources and time, and preparing budget submissions. FMCS continued involvement in minor disputes in states without a mediation service creates a disincentive for these states to provide such services.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should determine whether the FMCS involvement in state and local public employee disputes is appropriate. If so, Congress should amend the Taft-Hartley Act to specify the conditions under which FMCS involvement would be appropriate. If not, congressional committees should ensure that FMCS end its involvement in state and local public employee disputes.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider the desirability of continued FMCS involvement in minor disputes in states without mediation services. If Congress wishes to increase the involvement of these states in the mediation of minor disputes, it should define the FMCS role for encouraging states to establish mediation services. If Congress wishes to remove the existing disincentive, it should amend the Taft-Hartley Act to direct FMCS to avoid mediating any disputes which would have only a minor impact on interstate commerce.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the FMCS should establish a system to account for the resources used on individual and total dispute mediation, technial assistance, and public information activities. This information should be used in making future staffing level decisions and in preparing budget submissions to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of FMCS should establish and implement a timetable for transferring complete responsibility for mediating minor disputes to state agencies.

    Agency Affected: Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of FMCS should establish written cooperative agreements with state and local mediation agencies to define the types of cases each will mediate.

    Agency Affected: Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of FMCS should monitor the basis for FMCS involvement in labor disputes to ensure that its criteria are properly applied.

    Agency Affected: Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of FMCS should require a determination that a dispute threatens substantial interruption of interstate commerce before FMCS becomes involved in labor disputes when a state or local mediation service is available.

    Agency Affected: Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 15, 2016

Aug 15, 2016

Aug 1, 2016

Jun 20, 2016

Jun 13, 2016

May 25, 2016

Apr 14, 2016

Mar 10, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here