SEATTLE Package delivery rivals FedEx Corp (FDX.N) and United Parcel Service (UPS.N) faced off for the first time over a bill pending in Congress that would change FedEx workers' labor laws, setting out their positions in a debate on Tuesday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In question is a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration passed in May by the U.S. House of Representatives, under which FedEx employees would be covered by the National Labor Relations Act instead of the Railway Labor Act. The bill is awaiting Senate approval.
"It is legislation written by UPS, for UPS and only benefits UPS," said FedEx spokesman Maury Lane. "Everyone else suffers."
The event, held at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, was the first time representatives from both companies talked face to face about the issue.
FedEx has maintained that as an airline, its staff should continue to be covered by the Railway Labor Act, which governs airlines and railroads. FedEx began as an express delivery airline about 36 years ago, before adding trucks.
FedEx has said switching its governing agency amounts to a bailout for UPS and would strip FedEx of its competitive edge.
FedEx has taken issue with a provision in the bill that would make it easier for its employees to unionize locally instead of having a nationwide vote.
UPS, meanwhile, argues that FedEx employees should be governed by the same law that most of its staff fall under -- the NLRA's -- since FedEx also runs a ground delivery service much like UPS's.
"The fact of the matter is packages are not delivered by airplanes, they are delivered by drivers and vehicles," said UPS spokesman Malcolm Berkeley, after the debate.
"What is it about their express drivers that is so special that they should be under a different law than every other driver in the country?"
While UPS drivers are represented by the Teamsters, FedEx drivers do not have union representation.
"It's time to level the playing field in the package delivery industry," Ken Hall, the Teamsters' vice president and Package Division director, said in an emailed statement.
"No one company should get a special deal at the expense of U.S. taxpayers," Hall said.
FedEx launched an Internet campaign at www.brownbailout.com in June tied to the bill.
(Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; Editing by Gary Hill)