Federal Civilian Personnel:

Effects of Unconfirmed Members at the Federal Labor Relations Authority

GGD-86-29: Published: Dec 9, 1985. Publicly Released: Dec 9, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed certain issues relating to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which was established to serve as an independent, neutral third party for resolving labor-management disputes in the federal sector, to: (1) examine whether it can perform its responsibility when the Senate has not confirmed its members; (2) review the role of the General Counsel; and (3) look into its caseload and case processing.

FLRA currently has two of the three authorized members' positions filled, although the Senate has only confirmed one of the members. GAO found that, since common law recognizes that a collective body is empowered to act if a quorum consisting of a majority is present, FLRA is allowed to operate with only two members. However, should another member position become vacant when one member's appointment expires, FLRA could not legally perform its responsibilities. Another member position will become vacant at the end of the first session of the 99th Congress unless the Senate confirms one of the nominations before it or the President makes another recess appointment. The absence of the third member has delayed decisionmaking on a number of unfair labor practices, arbitration, and negotiability cases. In these cases, employees, unions, or agencies file charges with the General Counsel, who determines whether the charges have merit and either issues complaints or sends the cases to administrative law judges or FLRA. To monitor the progress of the cases, FLRA has established a case-tracking system which indicates the date each case reached a significant point. During fiscal year 1985, FLRA closed the highest number of cases in any fiscal year; however, 25 percent of the cases were in abeyance because of the lack of a third member. Of the total number of cases in abeyance, the number of negotiability cases increased predominantly and the number of unfair labor practice cases declined.

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