The Railway Labor Act (RLA) and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) are two federal laws that govern most aspects of collective bargaining.
Key differences exist between the two labor laws, which are essential when determining how to represent employees under the respective laws.
Railway Labor Act
- Covers airlines and railroads
- Amendable dates - contracts never expire
- Mandatory bargaining process with mediation and arbitration
- Bad faith bargaining or “fair dealing”; no agency review
- Mandatory grievance and arbitration to resolve contract disputes (Special Board of Adjustment, Public Law Board, Nat. RR Adjustment Board paid by the government - National Mediation Board)
- Representation system-wide and by “class and craft”; no employee exclusions - up to and including “subordinate officials"
- Presidential Emergency Board of Inquiry with potential congressional action
National Labor Relations Act
- Covers private employers, except airlines and railroads
- Contract expiration dates
- Voluntary mediation process
- Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs)
- Arbitration - parties pay
- Representation - by location and appropriate bargaining unit; excludes public sector, rail/airline, and supervisors
- Presidential Board of Inquiry with potential congressional action