Despite a relentless anti-union campaign, FexEx drivers at two locations have voted to join the Teamsters.
Drivers at FedEx’s terminal in South Brunswick, New Jersey on October 31 voted to join Teamsters Local 701. Earlier in the month, FexEx Freight drivers in Croydon, Pennsylvania voted to join Teamsters Local 107.
“We are tired of the unfair and inconsistent work rules and policies handed down by management,” said Mike Thiemer, a driver a the South Brunswick terminal explaining why he and his fellow workers voted for the union. “It comes down to wanting to be treated with respect and dignity.”
The pro-union vote at Croydon was the first victory in the US for the Teamsters’ FedEx organizing drive. Prior to the Croydon vote, workers at a FedEx terminal in Surrey, British Columbia became the first FedEx ground workers in North America to join the Teamsters.
FedEx workers in Louisville, Kentucky will vote in a union representation election on November 19. Another union representation election is scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 26.
An election was to take place earlier in November in North Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but the Teamsters citing illegal management interference withdrew the petition requesting an election and said that a new petition would be filed within six months.
Drivers at the Cinnaminson, New Jersey FedEx terminal on October 14 voted against joining the Teamsters.
FedEx, whose chief business rival is UPS, has a long history of opposing their employees’ right to join a union and bargain collectively.
According to the Leadership Conference, a civil and human rights coalition, from its beginning, FedEx’s business plan stressed the importance of keeping the company union free.
In 1989, FedEx’s then CEO Fred Smith was quoted as saying, “I don’t intend to recognize any unions at Federal Express.”
In 1993, FedEx distributed to its managers a booklet with instructions on how to keep their facilities non-union.
In 2006, FedEx’s corporate headquarters published a paper for its local human resources staff that included five union avoidance strategies.
When FedEx’s airline pilots tried to join a union in the 1990s, FedEx conducted an aggressive anti-union campaign that included illegal interference with the pilot’s right to choose union representation.
The pilot’s eventually overcame management’s interference and voted for a union.
The Teamsters launched their most recent organizing campaign at FedEx in 2011 when the Teamsters national convention passed a resolution stating that the union would “assist our FedEx brothers and sisters in organizing and achieving their goal of a union contract.”
In response, FedEx has relied on a number of strategies to keep the company union free including classifying many of its drivers as independent contractors, who are forbidden by law from joining a union.
In addition to making some of it workers ineligible to become union members, FedEx sometimes uses the carrot to avoid unionization.
After its Cinnaminson workers filed a petition seeking a union vote, the company raised pay by $0.80 an hour and announced an end to its use of driver score cards, which the company used to discipline workers and which most workers agreed was an unfair form of coercion.
“(FedEx and other non-union) companies are offering pay raises and other improvements at the same time we are organizing, but the workers know that these things can be taken away just as quickly without a binding contract,” said Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters National Freight Division.
In addition to the carrot, FedEx also uses the stick.
The Teamsters recently withdrew a request for a union election at FedEx’s North Harrisburg terminal in Pennsylvania after the union accused the company of committing “numerous unfair labor practices including intimidation, threats, surveillance, and many other (illegal actions).”
According to the Teamsters, leaders in the North Harrisburg union movement were singled out for threats and intimidation.
The company also sought to spread dissension among North Harrisburg FedEx workers by passing out a flyer with misleading information.
The flyer disingenuously urged FedEx workers to get guarantees in writing from the Teamsters about the outcomes resulting from the collective bargaining that would take place if the workers voted for the union.
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of bargaining knows that neither side can guarantee the results of the collective bargaining process before it takes place.
The successful union elections at South Brunswick and Croydon have Teamster leaders feeling optimistic about the FedEx organizing campaign.
“This victory shows that drivers are fed up with FedEx Freight,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president after the South Brunswick vote. “The (organizing) campaign is building momentum, and we will work hard to win these workers the fairness, respect and dignity they deserve.”