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National Labor Relations Board
Mission | History | Who's in Charge | On the Web

Tuesday, April 2, 2002


The NLRB enforces the National Labor Relations Act, conducts secret-ballot elections to determine whether employees want union representation and sets the basic rules for unions trying to organize workers. The act guarantees the right of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers. (Airline and railroad labor disputes fall under a separate federal agency, the National Mediation Board.)

The board also determines who is eligible to join a union at a particular worksite, and investigates and sets remedies for employers and unions that commit unfair labor practices.


The NLRB's predecessor, the National Recovery Administration, was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. Aimed at stimulating the economy and creating jobs in the depths of the Great Depression, the NRA enacted a series of voluntary, industry-wide codes covering minimum work hours and pay scales. Employees were also given the right to organize and bargain collectively. Companies that subscribed to the codes were allowed to display a Blue Eagle emblem - a sign of their patriotism.

The NRA wrote some 557 codes covering some 22 million workers. Although the codes improved some labor conditions, they were hastily written and represented the interests of big business over the consumer. In 1935, the Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional because it gave legislative powers to the executive branch. The same year, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, setting up the NLRB.

Who's In Charge?

Five members head the NLRB. Although the law requires no particular political mix, tradition since 1947 has dictated that the party holding the White House gets three seats and the "out" party gets two. One seat is currently vacant.

• Peter J. Hurtgen, Republican, nominated chairman by President Bush, not yet confirmed.
• John C. Truesdale, chairman until Hurtgen is confirmed, has said he will resign when the new chairman is in place.
• Wilma B. Liebman, Democrat, appointed by Clinton. Her term ends December 16, 2002.
• Dennis P. Walsh, Democrat. His term expires when the current Congress adjourns this year.

Also of note: General Counsel Arthur F. Rosenfeld, nominated by Bush, served as senior labor advisor to Sen. James Jeffords when he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, before his switch from the Republican to Independent Party in May, 2001. The NLRB general counsel has final authority over the investigation of charges and issuance of complaints, and supervises the agency's 32 regional offices.

On the Web