American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Amy Semet (Princeton), “Political Decision-making at the National Labor Relations Board: An Empirical Examination of the Board’s Decisions through the Clinton and Bush Years”

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 5:00pm through 6:15pm
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“Political Decision-making at the National Labor Relations Board: An Empirical Examination of the Board’s Decisions through the Clinton and Bush Years”

Amy Semet, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, Princeton University

Abstract: Are the members of multi-member adjudicatory bodies at “independent agencies” motivated by partisan ideology in their vote choices? In studying the federal circuit courts of appeals, scholars have found that results of cases vary depending upon the partisan composition of the particular panel hearing a case. However, to date, few have systematically studied whether partisan panel effects occur in administrative adjudication. In this paper, I explore the role that partisan ideology and panel composition have in impacting the vote choices of one of the administrative agencies rumored to be one of the most partisan– the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). Employing an original dataset of almost 3,000 NLRB decisions from the Clinton and Bush years (1993-2007), this paper presents one of the few recent studies of voting patterns at the NLRB on unfair labor practice disputes. I find that the propensity of a panel reaching a decision that favors labor increases monotonically with each additional Democrat added to the panel during much of the time frames under study. I also find that the partisanship effect is unbalanced, meaning that the addition of a single Democrat to an otherwise Republican panel increases the propensity to vote in labor’s favor more so than the addition of a Republican to an otherwise Democratic panel. Homogenous Republican panels – increasingly prevalent in recent years –behave in especially partisan ways. I further find that political actors – such as the Congress, the President and the appellate courts – fail to have a direct impact on NLRB unfair labor practice decisions; rather, the decision of the lower court Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and the partisan composition of the Board have the most impact in influencing whether the NLRB rules for or against labor. These findings have significant implications for a number of controversies, including debates about agency independence as well as questions concerning political diversity on multi-member adjudicatory bodies.

Amy Semet is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project. Previously, Amy was a Visiting Lecturer in the Government Department at Dartmouth College and holds a bachelors degree in government and history from Dartmouth College and a law degree from Harvard Law School. She is completing her doctorate degree in political science at Columbia University this fall.

Amy Semet’s research focuses broadly on the institutional development of the American administrative state and in applying quantitative techniques to the study of legal issues. Her work is interdisciplinary in nature, incorporating elements from law, political science, statistics and history. Thematically, she is interested in studying how political actors influence institutional structure and agency decision-making. She seeks to explore topics relating to the intersection of statutory interpretation and administrative law as well as to how the American public forms its opinion on constitutional issues and controversies.

Co-sponsored by ISPS and CSAP and cross-listed with the Yale Department of Political Science American Politics Faculty Search.

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