A Timeline of Events in Modern American Labor Relations
From the first government-mediated settlement in 1838, to the creation of FMCS in 1947, to the West Coast port mediation of 2002, an historical timeline traces the evolution of American labor relations.
Follow the progress of modern mediation and conflict resolution.
President Martin Van Buren facilitates a settlement of a strike by shipyard workers, the first government mediated labor settlement in America.
President Martin Van Buren signs an Executive Order providing a 10-hour workday for employees on federal public works projects.
Movement toward building a national coalition of workers’ unions begins with the National Labor Union.
The term “collective bargaining” is first used by Mrs. Sidney Webb, a British labor historian.
The first strike with national impact occurs as the American Railway Union launches a sympathy strike with striking workers of the Pullman Company
In a message to Congress following a strike in the anthracite coal fields in Pennsylvania, President Theodore Roosevelt recognizes the public interest in labor-management relations.
The federal mediation function is born. The U.S. Conciliation Service is created at the Department of Labor.
After major rail strikes of the early 1920s, Congress enacts the Railway Labor Act, establishing the National Mediation Board with jurisdiction in the railroad industry, and with the power to prevent interruptions in commerce in the railroad industry. The law allows railroad unions to organize and bargain collectively.
Norris/La Guardia (Anti-Injunction Act) enacted to limit the power of Federal courts to issue injunctions in labor disputes which would deny workers full freedom of association, self-organization, designation of bargaining representatives of their own choosing, or negotiation of terms and conditions of employment.
The Railway Labor Act is amended to include airlines.
The National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) becomes law, guaranteeing employees the right to organize and, if necessary, government-supervised representation elections. The Act includes the right to bargain collectively and sets forth prohibitions against employer interference or unfair labor practices.
The duty of fair representation is first announced in a 1944 Supreme Court case decided under the Railway Labor Act, Steele v. Louisville & Nashville R.R.
Congress enacts the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 (Taft-Hartley Act). The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is created as an independent agency of the U. S. government. The agency is given the mission of preventing or minimizing the impact of labor-management disputes on the free flow of commerce by providing mediation, conciliation and voluntary arbitration.
Cyrus S. Ching is appointed by President Truman as FMCS’ first director.
David L. Cole is nominated as the second director of FMCS.
Whitney P. McCoy is appointed by President Eisenhower as the FMCS’ third director. In the first venture into new technology, two mediators from the Midwest put together photographic slides and a tape recorder to produce the Service’s initial “audio-visual” program on the subject of grievance mediation.
Joseph F. Finnegan is appointed by President Eisenhower as FMCS’ fourth director.
The first national training seminars for FMCS mediators are held in four locations around the country.
Congress enacts the Landrum-Griffin Act (Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act) which establishes a bill of rights for union members—a right to sue their union, have a voice in union affairs and control of dues increases, among others.
“The Steelworker’s Trilogy” — The Supreme Court hands down three decisions that give full support to the arbitration process.
William E. Simkin is appointed by President Kennedy as FMCS’ fifth director. He becomes the longest-serving Director when he departs in 1969.
Director Simkin pledges FMCS cooperation with the Association of Labor Mediation Agencies (state and municipal mediation agencies) and participation in the drafting and adoption of the Code of Professional Conduct for the profession.
J. Curtis Counts is appointed by President Nixon as FMCS’ sixth director. The first mass work stoppage in the history of the Post Office occurs. Postal workers in New York walk out. President Nixon declares national emergency and assigns military units to New York City Post Offices.
The Collyer Doctrine defines the NLRB’s policy on deferring decisions in unfair labor practice cases until after parties have been through the grievance arbitration procedure. Under Collyer deferral, a union is expected to use its grievance procedure to resolve certain unfair labor practice issues.
W. J. “Bill” Usery is appointed by President Nixon as FMCS’ seventh director.
The FMCS Office of Arbitration Services is created. An Arbitration Services Advisory Committee, composed of 12 labor relations experts and arbitrators, is established to advise on arbitration policy and procedures.
The FMCS Office of Technical Services is established and given responsibility for the development and implementation of techniques for dispute prevention, research and analysis of problems related to dispute activity, staff training and the provision of statistical information to the parties.
A Relationship-by-Objectives (RBO) program is developed for use in extreme cases of poor labor-management relations, when continued deterioration of the relationship could have drastic economic effect. The first RBO program is delivered in Maine on behalf of the Georgia-Pacific Company and Paperworkers Local 27.
Congress enacts the Health Care amendments to the NLRA.
FMCS officially enters a new arena: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Congress passes Public Law 93-531, directing the Service to mediate a 100-year old land dispute between the Hopi and Navajo Indian Tribes in Arizona.
The rights of unionized employees to have a union representative present during investigatory interviews are secured by a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc. 420 U.S. 251, 88 LRRM 2689). These become known as the Weingarten rights.
An effort is made to expand the FMCS intern program to attract women and minorities, offering instruction and on-the-job training to become mediators.
James F. Scearce is appointed by President Ford as FMCS’ eighth director.
FMCS moves its National Office from the old Department of Labor to its former location at 2100 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20427.
Wayne L. Horvitz is appointed by President Carter as FMCS’ ninth director.
Congress extends the FMCS charter to mediate disputes beyond the private sector to the Federal government and again in 1979 to the U.S. Postal Service.
The longest, most difficult and challenging work stoppage of the year begins when the United Mine Workers (UMW) strike the Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA).
The Labor-Management Cooperation Act provides for FMCS to assist in the establishment and maintenance of labor-management committees at plant, area, and industry levels.
FMCS Labor-Management Grants Program is funded by Congress.
President Reagan fires striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) and uses replacement workers.
The Major League Baseball Players Association strike
Kenneth Moffett, a career mediator, is appointed by President Reagan as FMCS’s tenth director, serving for seven months.
The inaugural National Labor Management Conference is held in Washington, DC.
Kay McMurray is appointed by President Reagan as FMCS’ eleventh director.
FMCS plays a major part in the creation of the Independent Mediation Service in South Africa.
FMCS convenes one of the first regulatory negotiations, mediating between the Federal Aviation Administration and domestic airlines over flight and rest time requirements.
FMCS establishes an internal training function and appoints a training officer in the national office. One of the first programs is Effective Briefing and Instructional Techniques (EBIT) designed to make mediators better presenters of FMCS Preventive Mediation programs.
Executive Order 12462 creates a Presidential Advisory Commission on Mediation and Conciliation to seek improvements in collective bargaining and conflict resolution.
Bernard E. DeLury is appointed by President Bush as FMCS’s twelfth director.
Congress enacts the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act and the Negotiated Rulemaking Act. Both are aimed at increasing the use of ADR to reduce the cost of litigation in government and improve government decision-making.
John Calhoun Wells is appointed by President Clinton as FMCS’s thirteenth director and launches a broad transformation initiative focusing on expanded services, improved competencies and enhanced technology.
President Clinton issues Executive Order 12871 which creates the National Partnership Council and directs each Executive agency to form a partnership with its employees and their representatives to create a government that “works better and costs less.”
Director Wells appoints The Mediator Task Force on the Future of FMCS to prepare the Service for the next century.
FMCS forms its own labor-management partnership council and enters into a Partnership Agreement a year later with its National Office employees’ union, the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) Local R3-118.
FMCS co-sponsors the 10th International Industrial Relations Research Associations Seminar in Washington.
FMCS celebrates its 50th anniversary and receives Vice President’s Hammer Award for “Progress in Reinventing Government.”
FMCS arbitration rules and policies are revised for the first time since 1979.
C. Richard Barnes, a career mediator, is appointed by President Clinton as FMCS’s fourteenth director and introduces a long-range vision designed to position the agency as a global disseminator of labor relations and conflict management best practices.
Peter J. Hurtgen, former Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, is appointed by President Bush as FMCS’s fifteenth director and successfully mediates a number of national labor conflicts, including the 10-day West Coast Ports closing in 2002 that cost the national economy an estimated $1 billion a day.
Director Hurtgen mediates an end to the 141-day Southern California grocery strike, the longest in the industry’s history. To increase mediator expertise on strategic industries and bargaining issues, the agency launches a mediator training initiative and increases outreach to labor and management.
Arthur F. Rosenfeld, former General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, is confirmed by the United States Senate on August 3, 2006 as the sixteenth director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. He begins his tenure as Director of the FMCS under a recess appointment on January 4, 2006.
FMCS celebrates its 60th anniversary
Director Rosenfeld oversees five days of mediation in Washington, DC to end a 52-day national strike by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers against the Boeing Company with a tentative agreement announced on October 27, 2008.
Labor attorney and mediator George H. Cohen is confirmed by the United States Senate on October 5, 2009 as the seventeenth director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. He takes the oath of office and begins his FMCS service on October 8, 2009.
FMCS sponsors national labor-management seminars on health care issues in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, highlighting the importance of labor-management collaboration in addressing complex collective bargaining disputes.
Director Cohen personally mediates several high-profile collective bargaining negotiations involving the Metropolitan Opera and its orchestra musicians represented by American Federation of Musicians Local 802, the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and the American Red Cross and a national coalition of labor unions.
FMCS sponsors a salute to collective bargaining at Georgetown University law school on December 6, recognizing labor-management “success stories” and highlighting the importance of labor-management collaboration in addressing complex collective bargaining disputes.
FMCS hosts a White House labor-management summit meeting on December 5, recognizing labor-management partnerships in key industries and honoring important, recent collective bargining agreements. Among the honorees are leaders of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), the United States Maritime Alliance and the New York Shipping Association for working together during extended collective bargaining in 2012-13 under FMCS auspices to avert a possibly crippling work stoppage in U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports.
Allison Beck Confirmed as Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
On July 29, 2015, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm FMCS Acting Director Allison Beck as the first woman Director of the Agency.
She becomes the 18th Director of the FMCS since it was created by Congress in 1947.
Ms. Beck was nominated for the position by President Obama on September 18, 2014 and has served as Acting Director of the Agency since her nomination. Prior to her nomination, Ms. Beck served for more than four years as FMCS Deputy Director. Her past duties included assisting with the management of the Agency and supervising FMCS national and international programs.
Prior to her appointment as Deputy Director, Ms. Beck had an extensive career in the field of labor law and labor-management relations. For 20 years, she served as General Counsel of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO (IAM), where she supervised the legal affairs of a large, international union, became well-versed in all aspects of labor and employment law, and litigated cases in federal court and before government labor agencies.