Monday, October 26, 2009

Council Sets To Aid FedEx Management in Union Organizing Fight

I was interested in something Pat Andrews had posted over at "Had Enough Indy."

A not-hot and mildly worded proposal will also be voted on Monday night - Prop 378, which is a Special Resolution that "supports FedEx Express operations and the City of Indianapolis", introduced by Council President Bob Cockrum. I looked it up because FedEx is an operation situated mostly in Decatur Township, where it is shielded from paying its full due of property taxes because of sweetheart deals with the Airport Authority. The language of the Resolution is really vaguely worded, and as it turns out, deliberately so. Here is the key whereas clause:

WHEREAS, Congress is currently reviewing a 230-word provision in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 (H.R. 915) which unfairly targets FedEx Express and could lead to disruption and job loss at the FedEx Express Hub;

Nowhere does the Resolution get any more clear than that. So, I Googled "Fed Ex Express HR 915". Turns out the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 would change the sweetheart deal Fed Ex has gotten for decades to be under the Railway Labor Act and not the National Labor Relations Act for the purposes of union organizing. See here for more detail. And the Fed Ex union view here. UPS is governed by the NLRA, by the way. Seems to me that any loss of jobs would be Fed Ex's doing. This is a wayward proposal that is deliberately weasel-worded to cover up its anti-organizing position. Prop 378 passed the Rules & Public Policy Committee on October 13 with a do-pass recommendation vote of 5-1. Those members present were Councillors Lutz (chair), Cockrum, Gray, Malone, Pfisterer, and Plowman. I can guess how they voted, but I do not know for sure. During the Committee meeting, Councillor Cockrum mentioned that he and Councillor Vaughn were approached by the head of the Indianapolis operations of Fed Ex to put forth this resolution that urges Senators Bayh and Lugar to vote against this provision of HR 915.
Last month, the Council aided AT&T which had worked behind the process to out city telecom director Rick Maultra. Maulta, the chief city regulator of telecoms, had argued that telecoms should have to pay rights of way fees like they do in other cities and that AT&T in particular had violated telecom law. AT&T is not coincidentally represented by Barnes & Thornburg Partner Joe Loftus, who is also paid over $100,000 to lobby for the city and advise the Mayor. Although many Council members claim the vote had nothing to do with AT&T, the fact is AT&T representatives were making calls behind the scenes and attended council budget meetings where the elimination of Maultra's job was discussed. There is little doubt that Maultra's position would not have been eliminated had he not aggressively pushed measures that, although were beneficial to taxpayers and consumers, were harmful to AT&T.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out which law firm represents FedEx. It is also Barnes & Thornburg. It is interesting that when FedEx wanted something done, the company went not just to President Bob Cockrum, but also to Councilor Ryan Vaughn who is an attorney for Barnes & Thornburg. Given the obvious conflict, Vaughn should not meet with representatives of the company and certainly should not vote on the resolution tonight.

I do not know which side is right in this FedEx management-labor dispute. I do know, however, that our Council should not be used to to advance the interests of private companies. Although the FedEx resolution is not on the same level of the AT&T-inspired ouster of Maultra last month, it is nonetheless an example of the Council meddling in an issue it has no business being involved in.

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