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Shipping Firms Seek Legislative Deliverance

FedEx, UPS Battle Over Labor Organizing Rules

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As they continue to wage a high-dollar and nasty lobbying campaign, archrivals FedEx and UPS are awaiting final delivery of legislation that will determine whether they must abide by the same union organizing rules.

The two giant transportation companies have been at loggerheads for years over federal rules that make it harder for FedEx drivers to organize and strike.

But in legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, the House has inserted a provision that would place FedEx drivers under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act, as UPS drivers have been for decades.

Currently, FedEx is regulated by the Railway Labor Act, which was set up in 1926 to limit economically crippling strikes.

The Senate, however, refused to go along with the House on the labor provision when it approved its version of the FAA reauthorization in March. And now negotiators for the House and Senate must hash out whether that specific section will make it into the final version. The chambers have since approved an extension of the current FAA laws until July 3 to give lawmakers time to work out their differences.

In the meantime, the companies as well as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which supports putting FedEx drivers under the NLRA, are proceeding with their lobbying efforts, which are as intense as any seen on Capitol Hill.

FedEx has been running a multimillion-dollar public relations blitz that has sought to portray the union effort as tantamount to a Congressional bailout for UPS. In one video, a long-haired man stands in front of the Capitol asking for a bailout. The company claims that the possibility of strikes could disrupt its ability to compete in the delivery business. Furthermore, FedEx says that most of its business involves air delivery, while UPS largely depends on trucks.

“This whole effort is an effort to destroy FedEx’s reliability,” said Maury Lane, a FedEx spokesman.

Lane said FedEx is continuing to reach out to the public and lawmakers to ensure the final FAA legislation does not include the labor changes.

“This is lobbying and communications 101,” he said.

From the beginning of 2009 through March of this year, FedEx shelled out $21.1 million on lobbying. Last year, it ranked 14th among all groups and companies in lobbying budgets, spending more than oil giant BP and defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

The Memphis-based company also has tapped politically connected assistance, contracting with 14 outside lobbying firms that employ a number of former Senators. Not only is the Breaux Lott Leadership Group working for FedEx, but its founders, former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), are listed on the lobbying disclosure forms as personally working on the account.

FedEx hired the international public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to work specifically on this issue. The company also uses Ketchum as its primary public relations agency.

In addition, FedEx Chairman Fred Smith has been personally involved in lobbying on the issue. Lane said Smith travels to Washington frequently and will continue to do so.

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