Smile Politely

The Purple and Green Enterprise: The Inside Story of FedEx, Part 3

FedEx Ground states that it doesn’t have employees as drivers, but rather independent contractors who are free to manage their own business. However, here are some rules that have to be followed:

  • Contractors can only use their delivery vehicle for other commercial purposes only if the company’s decals are covered up.
  • If a contractor’s truck has FedEx Ground packages on it, then that vehicle can’t leave FedEx property.
  • Contractors can’t repair their vehicles because they are the company’s property.
  • Contractors are reprimanded by management if packages aren’t delivered or picked up on time.
  • Contractors can’t add on new vehicles without the company’s permission, regardless of whether the addition of another vehicle would benefit the contractor.
  • FedEx doesn’t recruit drivers for contractors, but they can employ temporary drivers, who can then work for a contractor.
  • Contractors must wear a FedEx uniform.

Now, just think about this: if you were a contractor and you were told when you needed to start your day, when you needed to have a package delivered by, when you had to have a package picked up and that you can’t take your vehicle home, wouldn’t you feel like an employee?

Also, what if this happened: you go to deliver a package and the customer is irate because it has taken over five days to receive the package, but it isn’t your fault that the tractor-trailer coming from Atlanta broke down on the highway, stalling the package for two extra days. You tell the customer it isn’t your fault and you don’t necessarily make the situation better, so the customer complains to corporate headquarters. As you are driving to the next destination, the manager of the terminal calls and bitches you out for poor customer service. He even threatens to cut part of your incentive out of your settlement check and tells you that your contract is in jeopardy. Now wouldn’t you feel more like an employee than a contractor?

FedEx Ground is currently fighting legal battles all across the nation. FedEx Ground initially started with only four attorneys at their corporate headquarters, but now they employee over 30, just to try to address this litigation.

FedEx Ground is also butting heads constantly with the Teamsters. The Teamsters are in support of contractors, because they feel that they are more employees than anything else. Teamsters are working diligently to infiltrate FedEx Ground in an order to educate contractors on why the need to unionize. Teamsters will often picket outside of terminals, threaten management staff and even sit in on informational meetings just to cause hell. FedEx Ground hates unions, but luckily for them, it’s not easy for FedEx employees to unionize.

In an April 2008 article from, Alexander Boston writes,

“UPS workers are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which allows workers to organize locally. This allows unions to form more easily. Many FedEx subsidiaries, including its freight and ground delivery units, also are covered by the NLRA. But not FedEx Express, the FedEx unit that handles overnight deliveries. Because FedEx started out as an airline, FedEx Express is covered by the Railroad Labor Act (RLA), which only allows unions to organize on a national basis. Because airlines tend to ship a higher percentage of goods across state lines, Congress saw an interest in preventing local unions from disrupting interstate commerce. FedEx Express and other express carriers were moved to the NLRA in 1995 with the sunset of the Interstate Commerce Commission, but Congress passed a law one year later that moved express carriers back to RLA. Labor groups criticized the move as a “sweetheart deal” for FedEx that gave it an unfair advantage over UPS. “

It is absolutely mindblowing how it came to be that FedEx can operate under a Railroad Labor Act when they barely use railcars. The advantage to operating under the RLA is this: in order for the Teamsters to successfully unionize all of FedEx Ground, then they have to unionize one terminal at a time. Let me tell you that FedEx has over 30 hubs across the nation and each state has more than a handful of terminals. It would take an absolute miracle to unionize all of FedEx Ground.

However, the Teamsters did effectively unionize a Ground and Home Delivery terminal in Wilmington, Mass. They also currently have 36 lawsuits in process nationwide claiming that FedEx Ground contractors are employees who need to be paid back wages and even more for lost benefits. If court rulings eventually determine that FedEx has been screwing over its contractors, then this could end of costing the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

When I worked for the company, I was shipped off to Pittsburgh to be ultimately brainwashed by corporate lawyers. I sat through at least three days of presentations and heard the same language over and over again. They gave me a format to handle contractors’ questions. They advised me to spy on groups of contractors and to report any talk of unionizing. They also told me that if I did hear a contractor talking about a union, then I needed to call corporate immediately.

Their lawyers told me that the Teamsters aren’t concerned with the contractors interests and that they only care about money, because the Teamsters are in heavy debt. They said that UPS and the Teamsters work closely together, because if FedEx Ground unionized, then UPS would have a market advantage. If UPS went on strike, then FedEx could pick up the business and score huge profits. However, if FedEx Ground employees sided with the Teamsters and formed a union and UPS went on strike, then the Teamsters could potentially have FedEx Ground employees strike, so that the Teamsters could profit from negotiations. This would also help UPS too, because their business wouldn’t be able to choose FedEx as an option to circumnavigate a strike.

I know that this is a lot of information; it isn’t too easy to follow.

Each night, after our training got out, my coworkers and I would discuss the uncertainty of our training. We felt like we were being used by the company as spies. We didn’t feel like we could talk normally to ordinary, decent men and women in our contractor workforce. I left Pittsburgh feeling confused and feeling sorry for contractors, so that is when I made up my mind to leave the company.

I only spent two years with FedEx Ground. Out of those two years, I worked in FedEx Ground’s Contractor Resources department for only five months. During those five months I came to believe that FedEx Ground does provide a hell of an opportunity to anyone who wants to have their own enterprise. However, more times than not, I realized that FedEx Ground treated their contractors like children. They ordered them around, they backed them into corners, they told them what to do and they scolded them. I think that FedEx Ground contractors should have an opportunity to receive benefits and lost wages, but they all have to agree on this. They ALL have to agree, ONE terminal at a time.

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