NLRB: FedEx drivers aren’t independent contractors

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The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that 23 FedEx drivers in Northboro, Mass., are employees and not, as FedEx contends, independent contractors, according to a Teamsters press release. The drivers who work for FedEx Home Delivery, a division of FedEx
Ground, are seeking union representation from Teamsters Local 170 in Worcester, Mass.

According to the Teamsters, the NLRB decision clears the way for the workers to hold an election in the next month. Teamsters says FedEx has been classifying drivers as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and overtime, and to prevent workers from forming a union. “This decision sends a clear message to FedEx Ground — stop misclassifying your workers to fatten your bottom line,” says Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “These workers deserve health and welfare benefits, competitive wages and a voice in the workplace.”

The latest NLRB ruling, according to the Teamsters, aligns with a California judge’s decision from 2004, which ruled that FedEx single-route drivers in that state were employees and directed the company to reclassify the workers by April 2006. “Government agencies are finally taking notice of FedEx Ground’s tactics,” says Ken Hall, director of the Teamsters Small Package and Parcel Division. “Until FedEx is stopped, it will continue to profit at the expense of these workers and all taxpayers.”

FedEx has argued that its approach toward its 14,000 drivers promotes entrepreneurship and stresses that only a few dozen, mostly former, drivers have challenged its business model. FedEx Ground spokesman Perry Colosimo says the NLRB decision amounted to a “procedural ruling” and that if the drivers vote to form a union, then FedEx Ground will appeal. Colosimo says it was too early to say what would happen if the NLRB rejected an appeal.

The contractor driver system in place at FedEx Ground was launched by Roadway Package System back in the mid-1980s. RPS was acquired in 1998. FedEx Ground accounted for about 16 percent of FedEx’s $29.4 billion revenue in its 2005 fiscal year. FedEx Ground repeatedly has stated that its drivers benefit from the system. “We firmly believe that the vast majority of contractors operate successful businesses and want us to do everything possible to protect their current relationship with the company,” Colosimo says.