Friends of FMCS History Foundation

The history of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration

Why are FMCS mediators called Commissioner?

FMCS mediators are called Commissioner because of the language in the Act that created the U.S Department of Labor in 1913.

That Act states in part:

“…. (T)he Secretary of Labor shall have the power to act as a mediator and to appoint commissioners of conciliation in labor disputes whenever in his judgement the interests of industrial peace may require it to be done …”

Therefore, from the beginning of the United States Conciliation Service (USCS) in the Department of Labor, staff members assigned to assist labor and management in resolving their collective bargaining disputes were called Commissioners of Conciliation.

In 1947 when FMCS replaced the USCS, the first Director of FMCS, Cyrus Ching, considered changing that title because he thought the title Commissioner would be off-putting for labor and management representatives, and therefore unhelpful in resolving labor management disputes.

When informed of the historic basis of the title, Ching did not attempt to make that change. However, he did change the title from conciliator to mediator since the latter had gained popular usage by 1947.

Cy Ching is shaking hands with new mediator Bill Rose

Director Ching presenting the 1951 version of the FMCS credential to Commissioner # 277 Bill Rose who was assigned to the Tampa, FL, Field Office.

While performing mediation, FMCS mediators will occasionally be addressed by the parties as Commissioner. But more often, they will be addressed simply as mediator.

Jim Elmore, a newly hired mediator in 1964, told fellow new mediator class members, including me, that when he proudly told his Irish father his new job title, his father responded: “That sounds like you’re the guy who runs the city water and sewer department.”

The photo above shows a wallet that mediators use for their official credentials. These badges were first issued in the year 2000 by Director Barnes and designed by Special Assistant Giacolone.  All active mediators at that time were issued this credential.  The response to the badge was mixed at that time but has become a tradition that is much treasured by Commissioners. Many retired mediators requested and were issued a badge with their number at cost.   In 2017 a decision by the place holder leaders of the Agency required all retiring mediators to return the badge.  That decision was not well received and eventually overturned under Director Giacolone’s tenure. Upon retirement all mediators receive a framed certificate of retirement which includes their Commissioner Badge.

Commissioner Brown Retirement Certificate

Commissioner Barry Brown # 936 receives his retirement certificate with the incorporated badge.

Note the word Commissioner and the number in the center. Each mediator from the beginning was assigned a number in sequence. When Jerry Barrett was hired in 1965, he was assigned the number 489. The number 723 was hired in 1970s and was issued to Eileen Hoffman.  Currently the badges are in the 1200’s.

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