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Is FedEx playing fair?

It’s now been more than a week since Federal Express launched an advertising campaign against UPS, calling language in the FAA reauthorization bill a “bailout” for Big Brown. The company even started a web site,, which has received hundreds of comments, and no doubt, thousands of hits, to set the record straight on the issue – at least according to FedEx’s interpretation.

In essence, the bill would reclassify FedEx Express under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) instead of its current classification under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The big difference is that under the NLRA, unions can be set up in individual facilities as opposed to system-wide unionization which is required under the RLA.

UPS is under the NLRA and is heavily unionized by the Teamsters, who, as one can imagine, are not happy they have been unable to unionize FedEx Express. This change, according to some, would make it easier for that to happen.

FedEx head Fred Smith, of course, is opposed to this. Unions raise costs, can disrupt productivity through use of strikes in cases of labor disagreements, and keep management on edge. Smith doesn’t want that.

Now I have opinions on unions, with no disrespect intended to any union out there. In many cases, unions have been positive for the American worker. There was a time when unions were the only way for workers to receive fair wages, safe working environments and job security. I’ve also seen times when unions’ unwillingness to work with companies that legitimately needed the help spelled doom, costing thousands of jobs – the very jobs they were trying to protect.

I don’t know the exact situation with FedEx, but looking from the outside, it seems that if the company is so concerned with the possibility of unionization, then maybe the employees are not being treated fairly. While this is easy to say from where I sit, if the employees are truly happy with their working conditions, pay, benefits, et al, then a union vote would be a simple “No.” Any other vote would indicate unhappiness of some level.

The other issue is the use of the term “bailout.” This is in no way a bailout of UPS as we’ve become accustomed to. Banks have been given bailouts. The automakers have been given bailouts. UPS, not so much. As far as I know, the government will not be giving UPS any money in this deal. For FedEx to use the term bailout is questionable judgment, at best. I wonder how many people will rebel against FedEx for what they may deem a mistruth.

In the end, if FedEx spent a little of the money it’s spending on this ad campaign on the employees, it would have nothing to worry about.