FedEx Workers Could Be Easier Targets For Union

May 27, 2009
Teamsters applauded House passage of a bill that could shift FedEx workers to the National Labor Relations Act.

The “Express Carrier Employee Protection” provision remains a part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act H.R. 915 passed by the US House of Representatives May 21, 2009. The controversial provision (Title VIII, Section 806) would shift all non-aviation employees of express carriers from the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The provision essentially covers only FedEx Express operations.

Under the RLA, union organizing must be on a company-wide basis where the NLRA allows unions to organize workers facility by facility. The RLA, when it was passed, sought to provide certain protections against disruptive regional labor actions against the vital transportation networks of the railroads. FedEx Express was covered by the RLA because it was launched in 1971 as an airline business. UPS, its principal competitor, was founded in 1907 and evolved its operations well ahead of the 1926 passage of the Railway Labor Act (which incorporated airlines into the Act in 1936). Being a largely truck-based service, UPS did not fall under the RLA.

Though the bill has passed the House, it must still pass the Senate which, in the last FAA Reauthorization bill removed the provision covering express carrier employees.

Calling the FedEx classification of express employees a “loophole,” the International Brotherhood of Teamsters claim this has given FedEx an “unfair competitive advantage and deprived its workers of the right to secure union representation.” In fact, the RLA provides for union representation through elections, but the process differs somewhat from the organizing process under the NLRA. The National Mediation Board, which has responsibility for conducting elections, differs from the National Labor Relations Board, which performs the same role under the NLRA, by requiring at least 35% of employees in a craft or class who are eligible to vote to approve the union. By that definition, the craft or class of employee typically extends company wide, not just to a single facility or region. This largely precludes local organizing and elections.

FedEx Express handles an estimated 3.4 million packages per day. It's sister company, FedEx Ground, handles a similar volume. UPS, which does not separate those services, claims to handle 11 million packages per day. The US Postal Service comes in at about 5 million packages per day.

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