FedEx Hits Turbulence; A Cautionary Tale of Energy Politics and Unionization

As FedEx fights off a measure that could make it easier for some of its employees to unionize, the company is having a tough time finding allies, even among some traditionally anti-union Republicans, and especially from Members in auto states such as...

UPS and the unions are talking the same talk. "Employees performing the same functions, even at different companies, should fall under the same labor law," said Malcolm Berkley, the Washington, D.C., spokesman for UPS. "From our perspective, it levels the playing field in a way that needs to be leveled."

Only employees who perform airline-specific duties - such as flying the planes - should be covered under the railway law, he said.

FedEx, which was founded in the early 1970s as an airline, does have employees, such as those who work for FedEx Ground or FedEx Freight, who are covered under the NLRA. But employees of FedEx Express have always fallen under the Railway Labor Act, including the drivers who deliver FedEx Express packages to and from the FedEx airplanes. The Railway Labor Act is designed to make it more difficult for workers to unionize and strike because of the importance of limiting disruptions to the national transportation system.

"UPS is attempting to change the rules by harming the competition through legislation. FedEx thrives on competition - we just think it should be done in the marketplace, not the halls of Congress," said David Bronczek, president and CEO of FedEx Express, in a statement e-mailed to Roll Call. "FedEx Express has been under the Railway Labor Act since its inception. We would be happy to discuss how the RLA is applied to the express industry as a whole but it should be done in a fair and open process."

Kristin Krause, a FedEx spokeswoman, said in 1996 Members passed a technical correction reinstating "express carrier" under the Railway Labor Act provision, which had been deleted the previous year by the Interstate Commerce Commission.

"We have never ever changed the way we've been structured or organized," Krause said. "There's been this misinformation, they've used the term that we got some sweetheart deal in 1996, and that isn't the case."

Even though the amendment passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee 51 to 18, Krause said the change is "really a long way from happening." The House Ways and Means Committee still has to put its stamp on the FAA reauthorization before the full House gets a vote.

FedEx did have the vote of one Democrat on Transportation and Infrastructure: Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), whose district includes Memphis, FedEx's home base.

We Recommend