The Federal Service Labor-management Relations Statute provides that an agency shall recognize a labor organization as the exclusive representative of employees in a bargaining unit, if that organization has been selected as the representative by a majority of the unit's employees who voted in a secret ballot election.
In order for a union to represent employees, it must first file a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. That petition must establish:
- That at least 30% of the employees in the proposed unit wish to be represented by the union as evidenced by their signatures.
- That the unit is appropriate.
To be appropriate, a unit must:
- Insure a clear and identifiable community of interest among unit employees
- Promote effective dealings with the agency
- Promote the efficiency of agency operations
Employees already represented by a union may petition the FLRA to be represented by another union or to be unrepresented. A petition must be filed with signatures of at least 30% of the employees in the unit asserting that the exclusive representative is no longer the representative of a majority of unit employees. Provided at least one year has elapsed since a representation election was conducted, the FLRA will hold an election and representation (or lack thereof) will be determined by a majority of the ballots cast. A negotiated agreement between labor and management bars another union from seeking to represent the bargaining unit until shortly before the expiration of the existing negotiated agreement. At that time (not more than 105 or less than 60 days prior to the expiration of an agreement of 3 years or less), the FLRA will consider a petition timely if filed by a rival union.
In addition to determining questions of representation, petitions may be filed to amend or clarify the description of a bargaining unit(e.g., if a reorganization changes the name of the activity), to consolidate two or more bargaining units, or to determine if individual employees are included in the bargaining unit. It is strongly recommended that activities file these later types of petition upon any organizational changes which impact on the bargaining unit's definition.