(Chuck Muth) – Representatives of FedEx and UPS squared off in what has been reported as their first head-to-head debate in New Mexico this week at an Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce meeting. The argument was over a bill pending Senate action which would put FedEx’s delivery drivers under the same U.S. labor law as all other delivery drivers in the United States.
FedEx Express, explains the Albuquerque Business Journal, is currently “treated as an airline and is governed by the Railway Labor Act covering railway and airline workers.” As such, the RLA makes it more difficult for a union to organize the company’s drivers and other ground workers. And that, contends FedEx, would make the company more vulnerable to strikes, thereby making it more difficult for them to compete.
But that’s exactly the point UPS is raising.
Because of the special treatment extended to FedEx, UPS is at a marketing disadvantage in its competition with FedEx because FedEx sells customers on the unfair advantage it enjoys under present labor law. FedEx claims it’s a more reliable and dependable express delivery operation because its drivers aren’t union members and can’t strike. Naturally, the company wishes to retain this extraordinary marketing advantage.
According to an Associated Press report of the event, Malcolm Berkley, spokesman for UPS, explained to the group that “The only question that’s being asked in Congress is why should one company have a legislative advantage over everyone else in this industry.” FedEx has yet to come up with a valid reason for ths advantage other than….well, that’s the way it’s always been.
Which is sort of like arguing that the law shouldn’t have been changed to give women the right to vote because prohibiting them from doing so was the way it had always been done. In other words, a pretty lame argument.
The reason it’s always been that way, as the Reuters report explains, is because “FedEx began as an express delivery airline about 36 years ago, before adding trucks.” But as the UPS represenatitve points out, “The fact of the matter is packages are not delivered by airplanes, they are delivered by drivers and vehicles.” Mr. Berkley asked after the debate “What is it about their express drivers that is so special that they should be under a different law than every other driver in the country?”
Darned good question.
In response, the AP reported that “Maury Lane, FedEx’s director of corporate communications at the company’s headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., said the disagreement is about UPS trying to put a monkey wrench into FedEx’s successful business model.”
Well, even if that was so…duh.
FedEx’s “successful business model” relies on the United States government giving it an unfair competitive advantage over UPS. This would be like McDonalds complaining if federal law exempted Burger King from the minimum wage law.
The question here isn’t whether or not FedEx has built a successful business model based on an inequity in the law. It has. The question is whether it should be allowed to continue benefiting from this special treatment. It shouldn’t.
According to the Reuters report of the debate, Lane also complained that the bill was “written by UPS, for UPS and only benefits UPS.” The contrary argument, of course, could well be that the existing law as it applies to the package delivery industry has been written by FedEx, for FedEx and only benefits FedEx.
In other words, a bunch of goose, gander, pot and kettle stuff.
“Lane,” the AP also reported, “told Albuquerque businesspeople that should the provision pass, it could lead to a monopoly of the 102-year-old UPS, raising prices and reducing choices for consumers.”
Oh, puh-lease. Playing the “Armageddon Card,” Maury? You could also say that if the provision was to pass, it *could* lead to a meteor striking and destroying the earth, eventually leading to the return of the dinosaurs.
The fact is, even if the law was to pass, that doesn’t mean FedEx’s drivers would “go union.” And even if they did, that sure as heck wouldn’t put FedEx out of business. After all, UPS currently provides the same service as FedEx for roughly the same price and its drivers belong to the Teamsters union.
So even in a worst-case scenario, passage of this field-leveling law wouldn’t lead to a UPS monopoly of the package delivery industry. That’s just absurd.
Speaking of absurd, the Albuquerque Business Journal report of the debate also noted that FedEx continues to falsely claim that passage of this bill amounts to a “bailout” for UPS.
Actually, the reality is that the current law has served as a “bailout” for FedEx ever since it entered into package delivery competition with UPS. It’s been like letting the company hit from the ladies’ tees, or spotting the company 10 points in a game of ping-pong. It’s like letting the company use its hands in a soccer match, or forcing its competitor in a marathon race to run carrying a 10-pound sack of flour.
As Mr. Berkley said in the debate, what this is about is “equal treatment of drivers under the law. A driver is a driver is a driver.”
And treating one driver differently from another driver under the law is about as American as sauerkraut and borscht. It’s time to right this wrong.