The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was created by Congress in 1935 to enforce the rules and regulations mandated by the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB is an independent federal agency whose primary responsibility is to oversee union certification elections and to hear and investigate complaints of unfair labor practices by employers and unions. The five-member Board is governed by an Inspector General, who frequently audits the work of the organization and is responsible for providing periodic reports to Congress.
The National Labor Relations Act applies to most issues of interstate commerce, except airlines, railroads, agriculture, and the government. Since the NLRA does not cover these latter areas, the NLRB has no jurisdiction over employers/employees in said industries.
The NLRB assists employees hoping to form a union by presiding over secret ballot elections and, should the elections be a success for union organizers, encouraging and facilitating a collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the union. All election appeals (by the employer or the union) are heard by the NLRB, as are any challenges to the makeup of the bargaining unit.
Claims of unfair labor practices, once filed, are investigated by an NLRB field office and then (if believed to have merit) escalated to a Regional Director, who may then submit the complaint to the General Council's office in Washington, D.C. If the NLRB determines a complaint is reasonable and worthy of action, a hearing will be scheduled before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge, who may then issue a written decision against the offending party. This decision may be appealed to a US Court of Appeals, but most (90%) of NLRB complaints found to have merit are settled out of court within 7 to 15 weeks of the filing of the charge.
Since enforcing the NLRA is the agency's primary mission, any description of the National Labor Relations Board is bound to sound administrative and mundane. But the organization provides a very important service, effectively acting as the United States' official liaison between Business, Labor, and Government.