Friday, September 10, 2010

What Brown has done to them

I clicked on a Google Ad asking me to help stop the "Brown Bailout". I'd never heard of it, and I assumed it was something that Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was pushing.

Actually, it's an astroturf campaign run by FedEx, over changes to labor law in the FAA re-authorization bill. I scoured the site, but I couldn't find out anything about what the bill would actually do, except, you know, be good for UPS and bad for FedEx. It'd theoretically take away the ability of FedEx to provide reliable air service for packages, which does sound bad. It relies repeatedly on descriptions of FedEx and UPS as wholly different, and includes things like unsourced quotes labeling UPS the “biggest giver to U.S. lawmakers,” which seemed pretty fishy. Call your legislators?

No, not really. What the bill would actually do is shift FedEx ground employees to the labor regulations used for all other ground employees save railways, making them able to discourage local organizing—the RLA explicitly requires national votes. That's pretty far afield from the "Brown Bailout" claims:
Since the company’s founding in 1971, FedEx has worked hard to be a great place to work and build a career, as thousands and thousands have done, and some FedEx Express employees have chosen to be represented by a union, others haven’t. Unionization is still a matter of personal choice in America. Most FedEx employees like our existing partnership and open-door relationship, and want to keep things as they are. Under current rules that apply to both UPS and FedEx, employees can choose to join a union and unionized employees can leave their union based on the majority decision of the workforce. That’s America. So it’s clear that the labor argument is only a smokescreen for UPS’ true worries.

It's no secret that FedEx and most corporations are anti-union (to be fair, it's no real secret that I'm generally pro-union). But that's a pretty slick gloss on the systems that make union organizing possible. And the consistent drumbeat from FedEx is that they're entirely different in form than UPS (because UPS is slow and trucks and yucky and FedEx is fast and planes and awesome), but given the BusinessWeek article (hardly from a liberal source), the FAA Reauthorization Act wouldn't apply to people like pilots, but rather workers in local depots and trucks. Which are, sorry to say, exactly like the trucks and depots that UPS runs, though in a kickier color scheme.

So, I'm off to write my legislators (something I can do lying here on the ground with a bad back), asking them to ignore FedEx and their astroturfing and to broaden the protections for the American worker. I'm doing this for two reasons: first, I don't think that a 1927 law forced through by railroad barons should be the default for labor in America, and second, I really hate misrepresentation and faux-populist smear jobs, and I'm afraid that my legislators don't have the time or inclination to distinguish real concerns from sculpted, well, brown.

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