Tennessee’s two U.S. senators are fighting legislation that would reauthorize and fund the Federal Aviation Administration, to make sure it does not also open the door for unions to more easily organize workers at Memphis-based FedEx.
Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Republicans, have issued statements saying they oppose House-passed language that would single out FedEx under federal labor law, and Corker’s office confirmed he had placed a “hold” on the full bill until this matter is resolved.
Any senator can stop progress on a bill by placing a hold, which is an unofficial but potent prerogative. It takes a broad consensus among other senators to vote for a bill when a colleague has put a hold on it.
In addition, Senate rules do not require a member to acknowledge placing a hold or to publicly say why. Bloomberg said a Corker aide confirmed that while he supports the FAA bill Corker will keep a hold on it “until we can be assured that the controversial FedEx provision will not be included” in the final version.
Alexander’s office told the Gannett news service he “will use every tool available” to make sure Congress does not pass a measure that targets FedEx’s labor status.
All this springs from a differing treatment under federal labor laws of FedEx and rival UPS. FedEx is under the Railway Labor Act that also governs airlines, while UPS comes under the National Labor Relations Act.
UPS is the largest employer whose workers are represented by the Teamsters union, while FedEx has a mostly non-union workforce although its pilots are in the Air Line Pilots Association. Union organizers have said the less friendly RLA makes it harder to organize FedEx, as it requires a nationwide vote by workers while the NLRA allows organizing at local facilities.
In the FAA reauthorization, the House last year passed a version that would put many FedEx workers under the same labor law as UPS. The pending Senate measure does not contain that provision, but the Tennessee senators want to make sure it also does not come back in a House-Senate conference to produce a final bill.
A UPS spokesman said the language “removes special treatment” for the Tennessee-based competitor. A FedEx spokesman called it a “UPS bailout” provision.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.