Ahead of a historic unionization vote by package handlers at FedEx Ground in Brockton, Massachusetts, supporters from across the U.S. organized solidarity actions at FedEx Office locations on July 22-23. If the workers vote to join Teamsters Local 653, they will be the first FedEx package handlers in the country to unionize.
Highlighting the tax-dodging and union-busting practices of one of the country’s largest and most profitable corporations, supporters sent a message to FedEx that the workers in Massachusetts are not alone in their struggle for a union.
Actions took place in Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, New Hampshire, Minneapolis, Madison, and four cities in western Washington: Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Bellingham. FedEx workers in Dublin, Ireland also organized a protest.
Despite record heat in many cities, protesters held energetic protests with chanting, picket signs and speeches. In New Hampshire, activists held a large banner outside a busy FedEx Office that read FedUp with Union Busting and Tax Dodging.
The actions included participation from trade unionists, anti-budget cuts activists, and US Uncut supporters, and were mainly organized by members of Socialist Alternative.
FedEx Sends in Suits
The actions were organized in less than two weeks, after workers at FedEx Ground in Massachusetts called a day of action to counter FedEx’s union-busting campaign there. They were relatively small actions, but judging by FedEx’s response they had a larger impact.
FedEx had prepared for protests by deploying additional managers to each of the targeted stores. Ben Gallup, who helped organize a protest in Olympia, encountered three managers when he arrived. We tried to talk to the workers, Gallup said, but the corporate reps stopped us and assured us that they’d already been talked to!
Similar experiences were reported around the country. In Madison, Wisconsin, Teddy Shibabaw reported: They were ready for us. The store was staffed by one worker and four or five suits. Shibabaw gave managers copies of his flier, downloaded from the internet and used at most of the actions, but the managers had copies of the flier already!
FedEx prepared for even the smallest of actions. In Tacoma, Washington, one union supporter remarked on Facebook: Can three people scare a major corporation into sending suits to make sure the workers don’t talk to said people? Yes, yes they can.
FedEx and Union Busting
FedEx’s overzealous response to these small protests bears a striking resemblance to their overzealous response to the union drive in Massachusetts. Workers there reported that FedEx management is aggressively combating the union drive in anticipation of an election with the National Labor Relations Board, originally set for August 3.
Last week, FedEx won a ruling to push the election back to August 12, giving them more time to bust the union. Management has been organizing daily hour-long meetings with Human Resources to promote anti-union literature to workers.
A large flat-screen television was recently installed to blast anti-union propaganda during the workday. And managers recently distributed T-shirts that say, I am FedEx No Dues.
Workers in Massachusetts said FedEx has been spreading misinformation about union dues and fees to spread fears about unions.
Tax Dodging and Cuts
Protesters used leaflets and gave speeches with bullhorns to publicize these union-busting practices in Massachusetts. They also informed the public about FedEx’s tax dodging.
FedEx was named by Citizens for Tax Justice as one of the 12 largest tax dodgers in the U.S. According to US Uncut, FedEx recently used 21 tax havens to limit their taxes to 0.0005 percent of their $1.9 billion in profits, while the official corporate tax rate is 35 percent.
In Madison, Wisconsin, protesters used street theater to highlight FedEx’s tax dodging. Shibabaw told us that a member of US Uncut dressed as a FedEx CEO and sat on a lawn chair next to an inflatable palm tree with ‘Tax Haven’ written on it. Then people dressed as ‘FedEx workers’ brought him fake bags of money.
In Bellingham, Washington, Keegan McCoy pointed out the connection between FedEx’s tax dodging and the Democrats and Republicans proposals to make historic cuts to Social Security and Medicare. He explained, If the government would simply force millionaires and corporations like FedEx to pay more in taxes, there would be a much smaller budget deficit.
Victory for Brockton Workers
These protests made a modest but important impact. Many people who walked or drove by told us they supported us or honked in support.
The fact that FedEx responded by deploying so many managers to their stores shows they know working people in this country are growing more fed up with poverty wages and tax dodging. More importantly, they know if workers in Brockton, Massachusetts, win the August 12 election, it could show workers everywhere that if we fight together we can win.