National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent agency of the U.S. federal government, created by the U.S. Congress in 1935 to enforce labor law, as defined by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (codified at 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169).  The NLRA gives employees the right to decide whether to bargain collectively through representatives of their choice. The NLRA allows the NLRB to regulate employer-employee bargaining and union activity.  Passed under the Commerce Clause, the NLRA extends to most employers and employees involved in businesses that affect interstate commerce.  In order to investigate and remedy unfair labor practices, the NLRB hears disputes relating to employer-employee relations and determines what labor organization will represent a set of employees.

In addition to providing additional categories of unfair labor practices and new types of elections, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 (codified at 29 U.S.C. §§ 141-191) created the current structure of the NLRB’s administration and provided the Board with the purpose of limiting rising industrial disruption caused by a post-World War II strike wave.  The NLRB has a Board with five members, each appointed to 5-year terms, and a formally distinct General Counsel, appointed to a 4-year term.  All are appointed by the President and subject to Senate confirmation.  The Board “primarily acts as a quasi-judicial body in deciding cases on the basis of formal records in administrative proceedings.”  The General Counsel is “responsible for the investigation and prosecution of unfair labor practice cases and for the general supervision of the NLRB field offices in the processing of cases.”

The Board’s decisions may be reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals. The United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, stated in this 2015 case: “Our review of such Board decisions is narrow and ‘highly deferential.’”

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]