Since 1926, Congress has enacted three major laws that govern labor-management relations for private sector and federal employees. An issue for Congress is the effect of these laws on employers, workers, and the nation’s economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, nationwide, 9.2 million employees are represented by unions. In the 112th Congress alone, more than 30 bills have been introduced to amend federal labor relations statutes. The proposals range from making union recognition without a secret ballot election illegal to further modifying runoff election procedures. This legislative activity, and the significant number of employees affected by federal labor relations laws, illustrate the current relevance of labor relations issues to legislators and their constituents.
The three major labor relations statutes in the United States are the Railway Labor Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. Each law governs a distinct population of the U.S. workforce. This report provides a brief history and overview of the aims of each of these statutes. It also discusses key statutory provisions for each statute.