FedEx a big winner with the GOP election surge


Nov. 04--WASHINGTON -- One of the biggest corporate winners after Tuesday night's watershed Republican House victories will be Memphis-based FedEx Corp., which can abandon fears that pending legislation will upset its existing labor relations.

"I think they dodged a bullet," said David E. Schaffer, a Vienna, Va.-based aviation consultant and former counsel to the House aviation subcommittee.

Schaffer said it's still possible the lame duck Congress could pass a new, multi-year Federal Aviation Administration bill, but "I don't think it could pass with the FedEx provision in it."

FedEx has deployed an army of lobbyists in recent years and established a public relations campaign to defeat the provision that would have reclassified some FedEx employees under the National Labor Relations Act, allowing them to form local bargaining units that could strike and upset the company's reputation for reliability.

The author of that provision, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., lost his re-election Tuesday night. The committee will be chaired by U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, come January.

Oberstar was FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith's nemesis during the height of the public relations struggle last summer. He accused Smith of "misleading the public" with a campaign accusing rival UPS of seeking a "bailout" with the labor provision.

FedEx spokesman Maury S. Lane said Wednesday that Smith would have no comment on Oberstar's loss.

Lane said, "Yesterday's election results clearly showed that the American people will no longer tolerate special interest legislative bailouts. FedEx Express will continue to oppose legislative initiatives that do not support marketplace competition and promote reliability in the overnight package delivery industry."

Both UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters sought the labor language to make it easier for FedEx's truck drivers and other employees that don't require FAA certification to organize.

Teamsters spokeswoman Leigh Strope said the union was "very saddened" by Oberstar's defeat.

"Jim Oberstar recognized that FedEx Express, hiding under the guise of an airline, was wrong and unfair to its workforce and the rest of package delivery industry," Strope said. "The work that he started will be carried on by others who support fair competition and giving workers the right to organize."

Both sides of the fight spent heavily, but U.S. Rep. Cohen, D-Tenn., who defied his transportation committee chairman in voting against the provision, agreed FedEx is now better off.

"I'm sure FedEx is a big winner because, with Republicans in control of the House, that provision would never get through," Cohen said.