FMCS adds two mediators in Portland office


The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service’s (FMCS) Portland office is fully staffed for the first time in almost two years.

Mike Steffany

FMCS is a federal agency that provides free mediation and conflict resolution services for workplace disputes. Unions or employers can ask the FMCS to send a mediator, known within the agency as a commissioner, to serve as a neutral and confidential sounding board in bargaining. Mediators listen to both sides to figure out where there might be common ground. They may suggest ways the parties can compromise or use a different negotiating style to reach an agreement. 

FMCS also offers tailored training about conflict resolution, bargaining, and labor-management relations, and it offers to officiate in “card check” unionization — verifying that a majority of workers have signed union authorization cards in cases where an employer is willing to voluntarily recognize a union. 

In total, FMCS employs about 130 mediators in 60 offices across the country. The Portland office typically staffs three mediators, but two of those spots were vacant throughout most of the pandemic. In August, FMCS hired Mike Steffany and Bruce Fries to fill the roles. 

Steffany, 44, previously worked as a field examiner at the National Labor Relations Board’s Portland office. For more than seven years, he investigated unfair labor practice charges, conducted union elections, and enforced federal labor law. He says he wanted the FMCS job because it focuses more on helping people reach an agreement before there’s a labor law violation, rather than determining the penalty after the fact. 

Bruce Fries

Fries, 44, comes to FMCS after more than a decade as a labor-management partnership facilitator with Kaiser Permanente and Oregon’s SEIU Local 49. In that role, Fries served as a neutral party who helped resolve workplace disputes and build collaborative relationships between workers and managers. 

His duties at FMCS will be similar but have a wider reach: The agency’s Portland office covers Oregon and Southwest Washington, as well as parts of Idaho and Montana.  


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