Thursday, March 5, 2009

Workers, Clergy, Community Leaders Tell FedEx CEO to Protect Middle Class Jobs --Hundreds Chant, Hold Signs In Support Of FedEx Workers Seeking to Joi

By: PR Newswire | 11 Feb 2009 | 05:26 from CNBC website:

LOS ANGELES, Feb 11, 2009 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Workers, clergy and community leaders in Los Angeles told FedEx CEO Fred Smith that dwindling benefits, higher out-of-pocket medical costs, the loss of pensions and 401(k) compensation has put FedEx workers on the verge of slipping from the middle class.

Clergy and community members were joined by workers at Town Hall Los Angeles on Feb. 10, where Smith was the guest speaker. Smith spoke about the view from "Commerce Street." The workers, clergy and community members spoke of the view from "Main Street." The view is not pretty, with many of the workers struggling to make ends meet.

FedEx enjoys revenues surpassing $36 billion annually with operating profits estimated to be $2.9 billion. In contrast to FedEx's good public reputation, the corporation has a history of manipulating regulations, exploiting weak labor laws and undermining workers' freedom of association.

In 1996, Smith used his company's influence with the U.S. Senate to exempt Federal Express from the labor laws that govern "like companies". By effectively obtaining a "special deal" for Federal Express from lawmakers, the workforces' fundamental right to association was summarily limited. The "special legislation" puts the workers at FedEx under the jurisdiction of the Railway Labor Act. Under this law, workers are allowed to organize only in national units, instead of locally. This has made the formation of a union at FedEx more difficult. The workers have been trying to form a union with the Teamsters.

During the Town Hall's question and answer period, Rev. Margaret McCauley of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church told Smith she was concerned about the well being of workers whose wages and benefits were being cut.

"My question is, if you are truly committed to building the middle class in Los Angeles, then why have you taken away pensions and diminished benefits from FedEx employees, which threaten to remove them from the middle class?" McCauley asked.

Alicia Wilson, a student and an intern at CLUE LA (Clergy & Laity for Economic Justice Los Angeles), reminded Smith of the Blue Ribbon Commission hearing held here in December that focused on keeping FedEx workers in the middle class. The hearing was co-sponsored by CLUE LA, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

"The hearing's commissioners are producing a final report which will contain a number of recommendations they believe will aid your workforce in maintaining a middle class life," Wilson told Smith. "Would you be willing to engage in meaningful dialogue with them regarding the recommendations?" Smith told Wilson "I can't promise you that I personally will engage on it, but if you want to e-mail me something and have us look at it, we'll certainly consider it." While Smith spoke inside, chants from outside the venue could be heard from outside. Workers, clergy and community leaders held signs and chanted "Save the middle class," "Give us back our pension," "Fred must go," and "Give back what you took." "I have witnessed a pattern of steadily declining benefits at FedEx. With the stroke of a pen, and with little warning and no input or discussion from employees, FedEx changed our retirement plan," said Dan Forrand, a Senior Aircraft Maintenance Technician in Los Angeles.

Smith's view from Commerce Street has meant the company has systematically and illegally misclassified workers in California and across the nation as owner-operators. That has meant that FedEx has avoided paying millions of dollars in taxes.

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