FedEx Almost Doubles Lobbying in Bid to Defeat Proposal Easing Unionizing

FedEx Corp., trying to defeat legislation that would make it easier for its employees to unionize, almost doubled its lobbying spending in the first six months of this year compared with the same period a year ago.

Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx spent $11.6 million on lobbying between January and June, up from $6.1 million during the first six months of 2009. It hired two new lobbying firms this year to buttress its effort.

FedEx is in the fourth year of a battle with Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s largest package-delivery company, and organized labor over the legislation. UPS spent $2.9 million to lobby between January and June, up from $2.7 million a year earlier.

The U.S. House last year approved legislation to let ground workers for FedEx Express hold local elections to form unions, rather than be forced to hold a nationwide vote. Ground workers for UPS already can vote locally to form unions.

UPS is the biggest employer of Teamsters with about 240,000 union members. About 4,500 pilots are the only major group represented by a union among FedEx’s 290,000 employees and contractors. The Teamsters have sought to organize the FedEx workers for years.

Representative James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, added the union provision to legislation to finance the Federal Aviation Administration. The Senate version of the FAA bill doesn’t include the labor language. Lawmakers aim to work out differences before an extension of the FAA bill expires Aug. 1.

Votes in Congress

Once differences are resolved, the FAA legislation will require votes in both houses before it can be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

FedEx was founded as an airline and placed under the Railway Labor Act of 1926, which requires national union votes and lets the government limit strikes to discourage the shutdown of national transportation networks.

Worker for UPS, which lacks FedEx’s roots as an airline, are covered by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA lacks the Railway Labor Act’s limit on strikes, which FedEx has said is crucial to its business plan. UPS has said workers at both companies who perform the same tasks should be placed under the same labor law.

The bills are H.R. 915 and S. 1451.

To contact the reporters on this story: John Hughes in Washington at jhughes5@bloomberg.net; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

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