The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act, the primary law governing relations between unions and employers in the private sector. This statute guarantees the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively with their employers or to refrain from such activity. Generally applying to all employers involved in interstate commerce except agriculture, airlines, railroads, and government the Act implements the national labor policy of assuring free choice and encouraging collective bargaining as a means of maintaining industrial peace. Over the years, Congress has amended the Act and the Board. Courts have developed a body of law drawn from the statute.
In its statutory assignment, the NLRB has two main functions: (1) to determine, through secret-ballot elections, the free democratic choice by employees whether they want to be represented by a union in dealing with their employers and if so, by which union; and (2) to prevent and remedy unlawful acts, such as unfair labor practices, by either employers or unions. The agency does not act on its own motion in either function. It processes only those charges of unfair labor practices and petitions for employee elections that are filed with the NLRB in one of its 51 Regional, Subregional, or Resident Offices.
The NLRB has two major components. The Board itself has five Members and acts as a quasi-judicial body in deciding cases on the basis of formal records in administrative proceedings. Board Members are appointed by the President to 5-year terms, with Senate consent, with one member expiring each year.
The General Counsel is appointed by the President to a 4-year term with Senate consent and is separate from the Board and also responsible for the investigation and prosecution of unfair labor practice cases and for the general supervision of the NLRB field offices in the processing of cases. Each Regional Office is headed by a Regional Director that is responsible for making the preliminary determination in cases arising within the local area served by the region.
When an unfair labor practice charge is filed, the proper field office conducts an investigation to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the Act has been violated. If the Director determines that the charge lacks merit, it will be dismissed. A dismissal may be appealed to the General Counsel's office in Washington, D.C.
If the Regional Director...