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VIEWPOINT: Don't shut the door of FedEx

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- FedEx Express is proud to be a partner with the businesses and communities throughout the Grand Forks area. We employ more than 100 hard-working people in the area (and 200 throughout North Dakota), and we fly 13 to 16 aircraft ...

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- FedEx Express is proud to be a partner with the businesses and communities throughout the Grand Forks area.

We employ more than 100 hard-working people in the area (and 200 throughout North Dakota), and we fly 13 to 16 aircraft in and out of Grand Forks each day -- carrying packages and cargo important to the local economy.

Landing fees collected at the airport, roughly $201,600 each year, help pay for important projects throughout the community. We want to remain partners with Grand Forks for years to come.

Unfortunately, legislation moving through Congress, if passed, would threaten services provided by FedEx Express and could severely impede our ability to serve Grand Forks and other cities and towns throughout North Dakota.

In May, the House approved the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. As a whole, the act is helpful to all air travelers as it modernizes the FAA.

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But buried in Section 806 of the 268-page document are about 230 words that would change how express-delivery companies are governed under U.S. labor laws, amounting to nothing less than a legislative bailout for just one company: UPS Inc. -- a healthy company that pockets billions in revenue annually.

This issue is so important that I traveled to North Dakota last month to meet with the local airport board and community leaders to discuss in person the impact of this legislation.

Let me give Herald readers a little background on our company and the legislation.

Until FedEx Express was founded in 1971, UPS had a virtual monopoly on the shipping industry. It controlled prices and offered limited choices for consumers.

FedEx Express changed that by creating real competition, introducing overnight express delivery backed by a money-back guarantee and creating real competition in the parcel delivery sector. Express delivery has become a critical component of many businesses and our economy -- especially in rural areas of North Dakota.

FedEx Express now is one of the world's largest airlines. More than 85 percent of what we carry goes by air. In the U.S., we have more than 100 facilities and hubs (such as our Grand Forks operation) that are part of this integrated delivery system.

And like all other airlines, railroads and express companies (including a division of UPS), we are governed by the Railway Labor Act, which Congress created to ensure our country's commerce runs reliably and predictably without disruptions from local disputes.

UPS is a fundamentally different company. More than 85 percent of its packages are shipped solely by ground vehicles. UPS is, essentially, a trucking company, and as such, they are governed under a different set of rules established by the National Labor Relations Act.

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Rather than simply compete in the marketplace, UPS has asked Congress to change the way our company is regulated by moving FedEx Express from the Railway Labor Act to the National Labor Relations Act.

What does this mean for the people of North Dakota? Should this legislation pass, there could be significant decreases in reliability and increases in prices.

Competition is good for our industry because it drives more innovation and customer choices.

This debate isn't new. Every few years, FedEx Express is dragged into this debate by UPS.

We all know the current competitive environment is best for the economy, and American consumers are tired of bailing out companies that will not compete. The Senate, including the N.D. senators, can prevent this ill-advised change and preserve our competitive shipping industry and access to world markets from every corner of this state.

Congress should be fixing things that are broken, not tinkering with the fundamental design of FedEx Express, a classic American success story that has worked well for citizens across North Dakota and the U.S. for nearly 40 years.

Lane is director of corporate communications at FedEx Corp.

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