A three-judge panel on the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has told FedEx that it must engage in collective bargaining with company drivers in Charlotte, North Carolina and Croydon, Pennsylvania who voted to join Teamster locals.
The Croydon and Charlotte drivers voted in 2014 to join Teamsters Local 107 and Local 71 respectively.
Since the two votes, FedEx has refused to recognize and bargain with the workers’ unions.
FedEx contended that the NLRB erred when it recognized the drivers as a group of workers with a shared community interests and called for a union representation election among the drivers.
The judges, however, disagreed with FedEx.
In ruling in favor of the NLRB, the court upheld the NLRB’s Specialty Healthcare framework for determining an appropriate bargaining unit for a union representation election.
The Specialty Healthcare framework allows a group of workers who share a community of interests to form a union even if the group does not include all other workers on the job.
In 2011, the NLRB ruled that a group of certified nursing assistants working at a nursing home operated by Specialty Healthcare in Mobile, Alabama could form a union that did not include nurses and other nursing home workers.
That decision ignited an outcry from anti-union businesses, which contended that the Specialty Healthcare framework would allow the formation of “micro unions” that would create an unfair burden for businesses.
In 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by one of these anti-union businesses seeking to overturn the Specialty Healthcare framework.
Like their cohorts on the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court, The three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court also refused to overturn the Specialty Healthcare framework and noted that the NLRB acted within its authority.
FedEx argued that the appropriate bargaining unit at Croydon and Charlotte should have included dockworkers, most of whom were part-time temporary workers, who would have then been eligible to vote in the union representation election.
But the NLRB found that the work of drivers and dockworkers did not overlap enough to create an overwhelming community of interests; therefore, if the drivers wanted a union to represent them alone they had a right to vote for such a union.
The Eighth Circuit Court judges concurred.
Before the Eighth Circuit Court panel issued its ruling, the NLRB ruled that FedEx had to bargain with another group of who voted to join the Teamsters.
The NLRB in February ordered FedEx to cease and desist from refusing to bargain with its drivers at its terminal in Stockton, California. The drivers voted a year ago to join Teamsters Local 439.
“This is a huge victory for the drivers who voted to form their union with Local 439, and we will continue to fight on behalf of these workers until they ratify their first contract,” said Ken Guertin, Local 439 secretary-treasurer after the NLRB issued its ruling.
The FedEx workers at Stockton, Charlotte, and Croydon joined drivers in South Brunswick, New Jersey in voting to join the Teamsters, which has been trying to organize non-union FexEx in a terminal-by-terminal campaign.
The terminal-by-terminal approach has been tough going for the Teamsters. They’ve lost six out of ten terminal elections.
In trying to keep its workers from joining a union, FedEx has used a carrot and stick approach.
In Croydon when drivers filed a petition for a union representation election, FedEx gave them an $0.80 an hour raise and stopped using an overly punitive report card to grade workers’ performance.
In Stockton when the organizing effort got underway, FedEx used the stick. In one instance it took away work hours from Edgar Aguilar, an active union supporter. The company recently agreed to pay Aguilar $4,900 in back pay for hours it took away from him at the time of the election.
Despite a mixed record of union representation elections at FedEx, the Teamsters said that they are still committed to organizing FedEx.
“The International Union, working side-by-side with all the freight local unions, is committed to this campaign over the long-term,” said Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters National Freight Division. “We hope that the company will get serious and negotiate a fair contract for the workers.”
The recent victories at the Eighth Circuit Court and at the NLRB should help boost the organizing campaign.