House gives unions a boost at FedEx

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on May 21 to close what the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considers a loophole that forced FedEx drivers wanting to unionize to win a nationwide election. For its part, FedEx calls the measure – included in legislation (H.R. 915) to authorize Federal Aviation Administration programs – a “legislative bailout” that would “diminish competition for profit-laden UPS.”

The issue centers on the fact that FedEx was founded as an air carrier as opposed to UPS, which began as a truck delivery service. The Railway Labor Act governs airline labor rules, while trucking industry workers fall under the National Labor Relations Act. One of the key differences between the RLA and the NLRA is that under the RLA, workers can organize for collective bargaining only on a national basis. So if FedEx drivers in Virginia want to be represented by a union, they can do so only if FedEx drivers all over the country agree, the committee noted. “It is unfair and inequitable for the Federal Express employees not to have the same rights to organize and bargain collectively as their peers at other companies,” the panel said in its report on the bill.

The House bill recognizes the hybrid situation of an express carrier, which is defined as an entity whose primary business is the express shipment of freight or packages through an integrated network of air and surface transportation. Under the legislation, express carrier employees are covered by the RLA only if they are in positions, such as pilots and mechanics, eligible for certification under FAA rules. All other express carrier employees would be governed by the NLRA.

FedEx charged that UPS “lobbyists inserted the bailout language to threaten FedEx Express’ ability to provide competitively priced shipping options and ready access to global markets. UPS’ bailout bill is targeted only at hurting FedEx Express and our airline-based delivery network. But those who rely on next-day commerce for medicines, replacement parts, critical inventory and other essential goods would pay the price.”

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The legislation still must be considered by the Senate and approved in identical form by both houses of Congress before being signed by President Obama.