Who and What is the FMCS?

Reprinted with permission from the Management Association of Illinois’s Web site, www.hrsource.org. The article was posted on November 15, 2007.

For years, employers have relied on the experience, professionalism and neutrality of the mediators at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) when involved inchallenging union contact negotiations. We invited Mr. Tom Jeffery, a mediator at FMCS’s local office in Hinsdale, to provide more information to our members regarding the services available to them.

This year, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) is celebrating its 60th year of service to the labor and management community in the United States. The agency was established as part of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, with the following mission: “The primary responsibility of the FMCS is to promote sound and stable labor relations through a variety of mediation and conflict resolution services.” FMCS is an independent, NEUTRAL agency of the federal government, and its director is appointed by and reports to the President of the United States. FMCS services are supported by your taxes, and federal mediation services are provided for collective bargaining without additional fees.

Nationwide, there are 170 mediators, located in 69 field offices. In Illinois, there are 10 mediators, located in 3 field offices, to serve the needs of both private sector (manufacturing, non-manufacturing, service and health care) and public sector customers.

Public sector customers could include cities, villages, counties, fire protection districts, school districts, community colleges, technical schools, colleges and universities and their employees who are represented by unions.

Federal mediators are highly trained and experienced, with extensive knowledge of best practices in collective bargaining and expertise in assisting parties in the development of solutions to difficult issues. Individual mediators are selected from both management and labor backgrounds and are advocates of collective bargaining and dispute resolution processes that foster harmonious working relationships and provide an outcome acceptable to both parties.

FMCS has no power to impose a settlement on the parties, but as a neutral third party, the mediator provides mediation assistance to the parties so that they may achieve a settlement that is acceptable to them. Mediators are required to maintain the confidentiality of any proceeding in which they are involved, and the courts have long upheld the confidentiality of federal mediation.

In addition to providing mediation services during contract negotiations, FMCS also provides extensive labor-management training to assist the parties in developing or maintaining their ongoing working relationship. Examples include training in setting up and maintaining labor management committees, steward-supervisor relationships and Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) and Interest Based Problem Solving (IBPS). Additionally, FMCS provides grievance mediation services in exceptional grievance cases where the parties request assistance to explore options other than traditional arbitration in resolving a dispute.

If you wish to obtain additional information or more details on any of the services noted in this article, please contact the Regional Office of the FMCS in Hinsdale, Illinois. Address your questions or requests to: Commissioner Thomas K. Jeffery (630-887-4755 or tjeffery@fmcs.gov) or Mr. Daniel J. O’Leary, Acting Regional Director (630-887-4750 or doleary@fmcs.gov). Written requests to either person may be sent to: 908 N. Elm St., Suite 203, Hinsdale, IL 60521.

Please see Arbitration: The Final Frontier or The New Horizon? by Julius Rhodes in vol. 3, no. 7 for more information about mediation and arbitration.