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Malcolm Berkley, Washington, column: Congress should end special treatment for FedEx

By Malcolm Berkley WASHINGTON -- FedEx spokesman Maury Lane is absolutely right: Congress should not be picking winners and losers in the marketplace ("Don't let Washington chock FedEx jets," Page D3, March 7). Beyond that assertion, there is not...

By Malcolm Berkley

WASHINGTON -- FedEx spokesman Maury Lane is absolutely right: Congress should not be picking winners and losers in the marketplace ("Don't let Washington chock FedEx jets," Page D3, March 7).

Beyond that assertion, there is not much in his opinion piece that stands up under the light of day.

The truth behind this issue is that FedEx -- and FedEx alone -- has enjoyed special treatment under the law for many years. Herald readers' eyes do not deceive them when they see drivers for FedEx, UPS or any other delivery company perform exactly the same duties. The drivers pick up a package from one place and deliver it to another.

The only thing that is different is that FedEx Express drivers work under a different law than any other express delivery driver in the U.S. Put simply, that's not right.

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Real competition requires a level playing field, but FedEx doesn't like that idea, so it is mounting an expensive and misleading campaign to try to keep the field tilted against its competitors.

Congress has a chance to bring real competition to the express delivery business by ensuring that all drivers are treated equally. Common sense says the rule ought to be: same work, same law.

But in an utterly shameful maneuver, a FedEx home-state senator has put a hold on vital legislation that is important for aviation safety -- and economic recovery -- at the behest of one company's financial interests.

This legislation includes airport improvements, a safer air traffic control system, funds for service to rural airports and much more of importance to North Dakotans and to the country.

But to listen to FedEx, a person would think that the world as we know it would be thrown into turmoil if the delivery giant's drivers were treated like every other driver: Jobs will be lost. North Dakotans will lose service. The future of the nation's economic recovery will be thrown into doubt.

These are just some of the inflated scare tactics and rhetoric employed in the multi-million dollar lobbying and public relations campaign FedEx is waging to maintain its privileged status under the law. It is unhinged from reality.

Consider Lane's language in his "analysis" of the FAA Reauthorization Act. He states flatly that the bill "would threaten the services provided by FedEx Express and could severely impede our ability to reliably serve cities throughout North Dakota."

The only problem is that the claim doesn't stand up.

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More than 100,000 FedEx employees already are governed by the very law it now opposes for its express drivers. There simply is no evidence that this change will dramatically affect the company's business model or the economy.

Congress is right to rationalize the law with the current state of the industry.

FedEx argues that its drivers and UPS drivers (and those for other delivery companies, small and large) come under different laws because of the origins of the companies.

But as a recent pro-FedEx analysis of the FAA Reauthorization Act stated: "UPS and FedEx came from two different directions, but today they compete for the same business."

With that sentence, the case is made for the very change in law that FedEx so vigorously opposes. UPS, FedEx and other companies have changed over the years, and Congress finally is acting to correct a legal situation rooted in a past that no longer is today's reality.

UPS employs more than 75 people in Grand Forks, and the company has more than 640 employees in North Dakota. In fact, we employ more North Dakotans than does FedEx.

Each UPS employee is part of an integrated air and ground transportation network that provides critical services to help connect the citizens of Grand Forks to communities across the country and the globe.

Indeed, far from causing economic harm, this is a change that could enhance competition, and that is good for the economy and good for North Dakota.

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It is time for Congress to remove this special treatment for FedEx and place all delivery companies -- and their drivers -- on equal footing.

Berkley is public relations manager for UPS.

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