Composed of five members appointed by the U.S. president, the NLRB possesses authority to decide cases entailing allegations of unfair labor practices. The NLRB initiated a pilot ADR program in 2005 as an optional pathway toward settlement for parties with unfair labor practices cases in process before the board. During the pilot period, the program handled 44 cases and, in 60 percent of those negotiations, neutral mediators assigned by the board guided parties to NLRB-approved settlements.
Following the success of the pilot, ADR mediation became a permanently established program of the NLRB. Once engaged in the ADR program, proceedings of the case in question are suspended and the parties are provided 30 to 60 days to reach a settlement. If an agreement is not reached within this timeframe, or one of the participants chooses to opt out of ADR, the program is terminated and the case returns to conventional NLRB deliberations.
In confidential discussions convened through the ADR program, contesting parties or their representatives are brought together with a neutral mediator for in-person meetings or videoconferences. Until 2012, mediators were typically administrative law judges, but are now either contracted professionals from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the ADR program director. Intended to grant parties the advantage of reaching customized resolutions, the mediator holds no power to impose a settlement, but agreements reached require NLRB approval.