Labor vs. Employment Law?
Labor law and employment law are related but the terms should not be used interchangeably. Labor law in the United States typically focuses on unions and collective bargaining between unions and employers. By contrast, employment law governs the employment relationship between individual employees and their employer. The two areas of law are closely related but are often distinct areas of legal practice.
This guide will focus on the laws that govern collective bargaining and labor relations in both the private and public sectors and research resources you may find useful. A separate research guide on employment law is in the works.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the federal agency charged with the administration and enforcement of the National Labor Relations Act. Consists of two branches: the General Counsel and the National Labor Relations Board. The General Counsel is granted investigative and prosecutorial authority and issues guidance to NLRB staff in the form of memoranda. The 5-person National Labor Relations Board is an adjudicative tribunal that interprets the statute and issues decisions that may be appealed to the US Circuit Courts of Appeal.
The National Mediation Board (NMB) is a federal agency designed to facilitate labor-management relations in the nation's railroad and airline industries. Specifically, the NMB regulates the procedures for evaluating requests by employee groups for union representation, acts as a mediator in disputes regarding the terms and conditions of employment, and interprets contract language it helped finalize. Matters in which the NMB has exclusive jurisdiction are subject to very limited review by federal courts.
The National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB) is a standing arbitration board that hears and decides disputes regarding the application and interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. Matters in which the NRAB has exclusive jurisdiction are subject to very limited review by federal courts.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is an independent federal agency that governs labor relations between the federal government and its employees.
Part of the Department of Labor, the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) administers and enforces most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. Maintains copies of financial and other reports filed by unions, union officers, employers, etc., as well as union constitutions, by-laws, and collective bargaining agreements. Be sure to also check the website of a particular union, as relevant documents may be posted there as well.
Agency websites generally provide access to more recent agency decisions and determinations, though commercial legal research platforms may be easier to search. (See "Government Agencies," above, for more information and links to relevant agencies.)
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