(Chuck Muth) – As we approach the start of this year’s World Series, we’re reminded that there are two sets of rules for the National League and the American League when it comes to pitchers taking a turn at the plate.
During the World Series, pitchers hit when playing in the National League team’s stadium because they don’t allow “designated hitters.” However, when playing in the American League team’s stadium, the National League’s pitchers are allowed to use the designated hitter option.
Obviously, having a designated hitter hitting for the pitcher is a decided advantage. Which is why, when a National League team plays an American League team, either both teams use designated hitters or both teams do not use designated hitters. It would be an unfair advantage for the American League team to be able to use designated hitters while the National League team could not.
Ditto FedEx Express and its unfair advantage in playing under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the express delivery industry’s designated hitter rule, while all of its competitors are required to play under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
How did this come about?
When FedEx was originally established, it was established as an airline. It flew packages from one city to another, just as regular airlines fly passengers from one city to another. As such, FedEx airline employees were, rightfully, classified under the RLA at the time.
Back then, overnight package delivery customers had to find their own way to get their packages to the airport (or to an alternative drop-off facility), just like passengers do to this day. United, Delta and American Airlines don’t operate a fleet of in-house “taxis” to pick up passengers from their homes and take them directly to and from the airport.
On the other hand, UPS was originally established as a trucking company. As such, their truck drivers were, rightfully, classified under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
And as long as FedEx was operating as an airline and UPS was operating as a trucking company, operating under two different sets of labor laws was OK.
However, as the new door-to-door “express delivery” market was created, both companies morphed into the exact same business, with both using a combination of planes and trucks to provide this new service. In other words, both companies began playing the same game in the same market head-to-head just like the American League and the National League playing the same game in the World Series.
The problem, of course, is that FedEx Express is being allowed to use the “designated hitter” labor rule while UPS is not. This gives FedEx Express as much of an unfair advantage as allowing the Yankees to use designated hitters in Atlanta stadium while denying the Braves the same opportunity.
A provision in the pending FAA reauthorization bill simply says that when FedEx Express and UPS play each other in the same market, both teams must play by the same rules.
Where FedEx Express pilots continue to fly packages from one city to the next, they will continue to play under the RLA rules. And where UPS drivers drive packages from one city to another, they will continue to play under the NLRA rules.
But when the two play against each other in the local door-to-door delivery market, Congress needs to level the playing field. Either both need to operate under the RLA or both need to operate under the NLRA.
It is unfair and a violation of the principle of equal justice under law to allow FedEx to play under a labor law loophole denied to UPS.
Frankly, I’d prefer putting both companies under the RLA since I don’t like unions, and organized labor could *possibly* benefit from FedEx Express being forced to play by the same rules as everyone else. However, what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.
The RLA was established to protect interstate commerce from suffering a nationwide shutdown due to labor strife; first as related to railway transportation, and later extended to airlines. And that’s the rub.
Local door-to-door delivery isn’t the same as interstate commerce. Therefore, there is no logical argument for placing local delivery drivers under the RLA. Or put another way, while every pilot can drive a delivery van, not every truck driver can fly a jumbo jet. In fact, probably none of them can.
The RLA is applied to pilots in order to keep interstate and intercity travel on track, so to speak. A door-to-door van driver is not a pilot and shouldn’t be treated as one for the purpose of labor law. A pilot is a pilot. A driver is not a pilot. It’s just that simple.
As such, we continue to urge the Senate to close the FedEx Loophole and pass the FAA reauthorization bill, including the provision taking the “designated hitter” advantage away from FedEx as far as its competition directly with UPS for door-to-door express delivery purposes is concerned.
Unless or until they start delivering packages to my door in a 747.