July 12, 2007: On June 29, the House Transportation Committee voted to make it easier for FedEx employees to organize by passing an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration bill that would allow FedEx Express drivers to organize under the National Labor Relations Act.
Absurdly, FedEx, the nation’s second largest trucking company, is currently treated as an “airline” under federal labor law—thanks to a provision management snuck into legislation ten years ago. FedEx is covered by the Railway Labor Act which makes it much harder for drivers and mechanics to organize.
The vote by the Transportation Committee is a step in the right direction. (UPS management thinks so too. They support the legislation). But even if legislation is passed putting FedEx under the National Labor Relations Act where it belongs, organizing this anti-union competitor is still going to be a big challenge.
A group of drivers for FedEx Home Delivery in Hartford, Conn. voted to join the Teamsters by 12-9 in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board last month. But the company is refusing to respect the vote.
Other elections at FedEx Home Delivery are pending while the company faces charges of retaliating against and terminating pro-union drivers.
Labor Law Reform Needed
Corporate lobbyists are blowing a lot of hot air these days on Capitol Hill about how NLRB elections are the only fair way for workers to unionize. The truth is corporations like the NLRB process because it is open to employer abuse and stall tactics that buy companies time to fire and intimidate union supporters.
That’s why the labor movement is pushing for the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would allow employees to unionize if a majority sign union cards.
Strong UPS Contract Will Boost Organizing
Labor law reform is important. But the number one thing we can do to inspire FedEx (and UPS Freight) workers to join the Teamsters is to win a strong contract at UPS.
After our contract victory in 1997, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, “You could make a million house calls and run a thousand television commercials and stage a hundred strawberry rallies and still not come close to doing what the UPS strike did for organizing.”
The 1997 strike continues to give us bargaining leverage. UPS management and shippers still fear a work disruption. That’s why the company is under pressure to settle our contract early this time around.
We need to use this leverage to win the improvements we were promised in 2002. Winning better pensions, benefits and working conditions would mean a better future for Teamsters at UPS—and it will make it easier to organize the nonunion competition.