Wednesday, August 13, 2014

UPS, FedEx owned by most of the same monopoly banks Highlights the need for industry-wide organizing, unionizing FedEx workers By Dave Schneider and Dustin Ponder | April 19, 2014 Read more articles in Labor Jacksonville, FL

– Despite ‘competing’ as the world's two largest parcel delivery and shipping companies, UPS and FedEx are owned by many of the same banks. According to NASDAQ's ownership summary of both companies, 12 of the top 20 owners of UPS and FedEx are the same banks, investment groups and financial institutions.

Both multi-billion dollar corporations are under 'institutional ownership', which means that a majority of their shares are owned by financial institutions, banks and other large monopoly corporations. According to NASDAQ's ownership summary of UPS on April 11, nearly 71% of UPS shares are owned by institutions. FedEx, a smaller company than UPS, actually had greater institutional ownership, with 83.94% of the company's shares owned by institutions, according to NASDAQ.

However, most of the largest institutional owners of both UPS and FedEx have substantial interests in both companies. For instance, Vanguard Group Inc., a Pennsylvania-based investment bank that manages nearly $2 trillion in assets, is the single-largest owner of UPS and the third largest owner of FedEx. Vanguard Group is a massive financial institution that boasts the largest ownership in many other large, well-known corporations including Apple, Exxon Mobil and Microsoft.

Primecap Management Company, based in Pasadena, California, is the largest owner of FedEx, holding nearly 19 million shares of the shipping company, according to NASDAQ. However, Primecap is also the 16th largest owner of UPS stock, holding more than 6.3 million shares, also according to NASDAQ.

In all, 60% of the top 20 owners of both UPS and FedEx are the same banks, investment groups and financial institutions.

Institutional ownership is incredibly common among the largest 500 publicly traded companies.

Despite this fact, companies like UPS stress to workers the need to “compete” against rival workers in their industry, like those at FedEx. UPS's collective bargaining agreement includes an entire article on competition that states: “The Union recognizes that the Employer is in direct competition with…other firms engaging in the distribution of express letter, parcel express, parcel delivery, and freight, both air and surface.”

The company leverages this poison pill of competition to justify subcontracting union work and undermining union standards. It creates an adversarial relationship between workers of UPS and FedEx, when in reality the owners at the top are united in extracting the most profit possible from workers at both companies. When the owners of UPS and FedEx are one in the same, ‘competition’ means which management team can exploit their workers the most and extract the most profit for the banks that own the whole industry.

A prominent argument used by UPS claims that workers must accept concessionary contracts to remain ‘competitive.’ They argue that employing tried-and-true militant tactics, like striking as the Teamsters did successfully in 1997, will result in FedEx stealing UPS’s customers. Historically, the union movement addressed this by organizing entire industries, instead of single worksites or employers. This meant one industry, one union, and at times -one contract. At its best, this method of organizing and bargaining takes wages out of competition and sets industry-wide standards to prevent subcontracting and a race to the bottom through ‘competition.’ Tactically, if the 1% owners of both brands are united, then to combat them and win, workers across the entire industry must also unite.

The attempts of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to organize FedEx have been foiled by U.S. labor law, which misclassifies workers and stifles their ability to unionize. FedEx Ground drivers are misclassified as independent contractors and are legally barred from union representation, even though in practice, they are effectively workers directly employed by the company. FedEx Express drivers are also misclassified under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), as opposed to the National Labor Relations Act. The company claims their employees are ‘airline’ workers, and thus would need to unionize nationally all at once. The RLA also places many more restrictions on workers’ rights, including the ability to strike. It also forces the workers into binding arbitration, which often serve the interest of the boss instead of the workers.

The banks and financial institutions that own both UPS and FedEx are united in their push for lower wages, part-time poverty jobs, fewer benefits and weaker contracts. To effectively fight their race to the bottom, union workers at UPS must organize FedEx workers, regardless of the legal fictions created by politicians in Washington.

Dave Schneider and Dustin Ponder are both rank-and-file Teamsters and members of Part-Time Power at UPS, which is a national group for UPS part-timers.

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