This handbook is designed to familiarize you with the information available from the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) and how to obtain that information, including the process for making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The process is neither complicated nor time-consuming. Following these guidelines will make it more likely that you will receive the information you are seeking in the shortest amount of time. This guide also includes descriptions of the types of records maintained by different parts of the agency, some of which are available without making a FOIA request.
The Freedom of Information Act, which can be found in Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, was enacted in 1966 and provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. All agencies of the United States government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them, except for those records that are protected from disclosure by the nine exemptions and three exclusions of the FOIA. This right of access is enforceable in court. The federal FOIA does not, however, provide a right of access to records held by state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. All states have their own statutes governing public access to state and local records and state authorities should be consulted for further information about them.
There is no central office in the government which processes FOIA requests for all federal agencies. Each agency responds to requests for its own records. Therefore, before sending a request to the FLRA, you should determine whether this agency is likely to have the records you are seeking. Every federal department or agency either already has or will soon issue its own information guide, so if the records you are interested in are kept by another agency, you may wish to request a copy of that agency's Guide from its FOIA office.
The formal rules for making FOIA requests to the FLRA are set forth in Chapter XIV of Volume 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This multiple-volume set is available in all law libraries and federal depository libraries. A copy of the portions of Chapter XIV pertaining to making FOIA requests may be obtained from the Office of the Solicitor, Federal Labor Relations Authority, 1400 K Street, NW, Washington, DC. 20424.
The following are some general sources of information about how to make a FOIA request:
"Your Right to Federal Records," available for fifty cents per copy from the Consumer Information Center, P.O. Box 100, Pueblo, CO 81002. This publication also can be accessed electronically on the Internet at: http://cpsr.org/cpsr/foia/
"A Citizen's Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records." This report is published by the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight of the House of Representatives. It is available for sale for $5.00 from the U.S. Government Printing Office, stock number 052-071-012-30-3. It also can be accessed on the Internet by going to http://www.house.gov, selecting the committee pages, then selecting the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, and accessing the topic entitled "Committee and Subcommittee Reports."
"Consumer's Resource Handbook." This handbook describes the federal agencies that are responsible for specific consumer problems and where to write for assistance. Single copies of this publication may be obtained for free by writing to: Handbook, U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, 750 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006-4607. This booklet also can be found on the Internet at: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/1997res.htm.
Access to Certain Records Without a FOIA Request
Certain types of FLRA records are available without the need to make a FOIA request. They include: (1) final opinions and orders made in adjudicating cases; (2) final statements of policy and interpretations which have not been published in the Federal Register; (3) administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public; (4) copies of records that have been the subject of a FOIA request and that are of sufficient public interest or curiosity that the agency believes other persons are likely to request them; and (5) the agency's annual FOIA report to Congress--which includes such information as the number of requests received by the agency, the amount of time taken to process requests, the total amount of fees collected by the agency, information regarding the backlog of pending requests, and other information about the agency's handling of FOIA requests. These types of records may be inspected in the FLRA's reading room, which is located in the FLR