The Problem with Administrative Precedents

Is that in following administrative precedents, one is committing the naturalistic fallacy: just because it has always been a particular way does not justify it’s continued practice.

Witnesses the National Mediation Board‘s interpretation of the Railway Labor Act’s labor representation rules. The NMB interprets the majority requirement of the RLA as requiring 50%+1 of ALL ELIGIBLE employees, as opposed to a simple majority of all PARTICIPATING VOTERS.

The difference is huge, because the former interpretation essentially means that any eligible employee who chooses not to vote in an union election automatically counts as a “NO” vote. This goes against pretty much every other election in a democracy. As you can see, this administrative interpretation of a statute significantly increases the burden of union organizing.

If this strikes you as odd, it also did the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who held a hearing on this very subject this afternoon. This is the first ever Congressional oversight hearing of the NMB, which is surprising, given its age (first established in the 1930s) and its role as the ultimate mediator/arbitor in an industry that is crucial to interstate commerce.

Of course the NMB’s statutory interpretation was raised, and the best (and only) explanation proferred by NMB’s Chair is basically a version of, “well, it has always been interpreted this way, and we are just following precedent.”

Anyways, while I was watching the hearing, I was suddenly caught off guard by an uncanny resemblance between Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC 6th) and The Abomination from Warcraft 3:

= ?

Not that I’m implying Howard Coble is part of The Scourge, but perhaps Congress can put in some funds in this year’s Continuing Resolution for a meat hook, chain, and a wagon.


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