Where unions stand on the issue - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Where unions stand on the issue


Workers at UPS, which has a distribution hub in Louisville, are organized by the Teamsters, and company and union have united behind the anti-FedEx provision. It was introduced by Minnesota Democrat Rep. James Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"There's no difference between a FedEx driver and a UPS driver," said UPS spokesman Norman Black. "We believe it is a fundamental issue of fairness."

Some divisions of FedEx already are allowed to unionize without the hurdles faced by FedEx Express. Teamsters Vice President Ken Hall said that underscores that more access to unions wouldn't break FedEx.  Hall dismissed warnings of rural service cuts as an intimidation tactic.

In April, the Teamsters launched an Internet campaign -- FedExDriversAren'tPilots.com -- meant to ridicule UPS's rival. It includes video clips of what appears to be an airline stewardess instructing truck drivers on how to buckle their seatbelts.

FedEx has shot back with claims that UPS is seeking a "Brown bailout" -- a reference to the company's signature brown uniforms that attempts to capitalize on anti-corporate sentiment following the Wall Street and auto industry bailouts.

Combined, FedEx and UPS move almost 23 million packages a year, said Jindel, whose company, SJ Consulting, has done work for both companies. Their rivalry dates to at least 1996, when FedEx briefly lost its airline status before getting it restored by Congress.

UPS briefly attempted to follow FedEx's lead, unsuccessfully appealing to the government in 1996 to get its status changed to an airline.  That would have put both shippers under the Railway Labor Act, which places sharp restrictions on attempts to unionize.

The 1926 law was meant to protect critical transportation networks from disruptions caused by strikes.

Jindel said both UPS and FedEx rightly belong in that category, since they have nationwide networks that move goods equivalent to 12 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product. However, the debate in Congress is stuck on the question of unions.

No end is in sight for the shipping squabble. Oberstar's provision was in the House version of a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that has yet to pass in the Senate.

Jim Berard, a spokesman for Oberstar's committee, said lawmakers from FedEx's home state of Tennessee are holding up a conference that could break the deadlock on the bill.

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