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The history of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration

Three Generations of Wagners #368 John M., #678 John A., #1234 Kevin

The Wagner family has a proud legacy at FMCS.  There have been three generations (John M., John A., and Kevin) who have served as commissioners for a total of 62 years.   Kevin Wagner is currently based out of the Headquarters in Washington, DC.


The foundation for the Wagner FMCS mediators was laid by Kevin’s Great-Grand Father, Michael Wagner (1886-1976). Michael acquired his welding craft as a child laborer on the New York Central Railroad at the turn of the 20th century. He continued this craft as a sailor aboard the USS New Hampshire in Teddy Roosevelt’s White Fleet. He married after his military service and raised seven children with his wife.


One of his son’s John M. (1918-2013), having served in WWII, returned home in search of employment. He found work at Westinghouse, where he also had a leadership role with the local United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he entered Seton Hall University. He commuted by bus to his job by day and to school at night.  It was fortuitous that he rode the same commuter bus as the FMCS Regional Director, Frank Brown. John and Frank engaged in many conversations about what the future held for John.  Upon graduation in 1956, Director Brown encouraged John to apply to the New Jersey Board of Mediation as a state mediator. He served for two years before becoming a commissioner with FMCS in 1958.


John’s initial assignment as a field mediator was in the Columbus, Ohio office. He served there for four years before returning to Newark, and he was later assigned to the Cincinnati office in 1970. He retired in 1986 after transferring to the San Francisco office for a couple of years.  He retired after twenty-eight years with FMCS.


John mediated collective bargaining sessions in the late 1960’s with American Cyanamid and the International Chemical Workers Union in Linden, NJ.  The Director of Labor Relations with American Cyanamid was John Pfeifer.  Little did the negotiators know that John’s son would date Mr. Pfeifer’s daughter, Joyce, and eventually marry in 1971.


John A. became interested in FMCS as a high school student. He entered a social science fair project featuring the agency’s mission. That gold medal project opened his eyes to the possibility of following his father’s career path.  In 1973, John entered FMCS after working for Johnson & Johnson and Kimberly Clark in Labor Relations. His initial field assignment was in the Chicago Regional Office.  Three years later, he was promoted to Special Assistant to National Director, James Scearce.


When Wayne Horvitz became Director, John was given the opportunity to return to the field in Washington, DC.  In 1985, he was promoted to Director of Field Services & Training.  In 1987, John became the first Director of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and also headed International Affairs.    Under his leadership FMCS became in engaged in Negotiated Rulemaking, helped coordinate teams of mediators to assist foreign governments and design conflict management systems.  After thirty-one years with FMCS, John retired in 2004.


John’s son Kevin was exposed to mediation from a young age.  He attended a collective bargaining mediation with the parties’ blessing when he was 7 years old.  The only instructions he was given was to be quiet and to listen to what was being said.  Growing up he wished that his father had a profession that was easily explained to his classmates.  When he told them his dad was a mediator, he often got blank stares and had to explain what a mediator did.


By the time his father retired from FMCS, Kevin was well into his career working in Labor Relations. He started with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in their Labor Relations Department, worked for Arbitrator Jon Kaufmann and then moved to the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) eventually becoming Director of Labor Relations. In 2018, after 17 years with BNA he was intrigued when there was field mediator opening in DC.  He applied and was hired in December 2018.


When Kevin started working, he was advised by a fellow mediator to not mention that he was the Agency’s first third generation mediator.  The rationale was it should be discouraged due to the appearance of nepotism.  In one of his first mediations a lead negotiator in caucus questioned him why he didn’t mention his family background.  They had googled him prior to the mediation and read an article about his new mediator class on the FMCS website.  The person encouraged him to mention his family’s legacy at FMCS in his opening statement because it showed he has a deep connection to the mediation process.  Kevin has proudly referenced his family’s history in his opening statements since that day.


Kevin and John love to converse about mediation and its challenges.  Kevin’s current mediator number is 1234, which could foreshadow that there may be a fourth Wagner at FMCS in the pipeline.  He and his wife Jennifer have two children, Cassidy (18), and Sean (14).  Only time will tell….





John M. Wagner is the 5th from the left standing in the 1958 Class Picture


Kevin Wagner is second from the left in the Class of 2018

John A. Wagner is the 5th from the right standing in the Class of 1973


Updated: April 19, 2022 — 5:38 pm
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