An Open Letter to Teamsters President James P. Hoffa

The time is right for The Teamsters to step up their efforts to represent drivers long underpaid and disrespected by FedEx Ground.

Mr. Hoffa,

A great opportunity lays at the door of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. A chance for the Teamsters to possibly add thousands of drivers across the country to its rank and file. Drivers who are currently employed by small businesses who contract with FedEx Ground. That’s right, Federal Express. An opportunity to finally get a foothold in a business whose model you’ve argued against for years. 

I have a long 15+ year relationship with FedEx Ground, both as a contractor in the now debunked Independent Contractor model, and currently as a driver for a company operating in what I believe is an eerie environment filled with just as much double talk and trickery; the Independent Service Provider model. This model, where these small companies negotiate their service contracts with FedEx Ground, which is to say FedEx sets a price in the sand and it will be up to the contractor to decide if he wants to service his area, is nothing more than the Independent Contractor model in different wrapping paper. In a recent meeting held for contractors in my area, it was explained simply that a contractor could hold out and possibly get more money for each delivered stop, but that FedEx might offset that by paying less for any number of other contract line items. I can’t see that being good for anyone other than FedEx, certainly not the contractors or we the drivers.

And who took the bullet from FedEx that made this model possible? The single route driver. The guys who were here from the beginning, the guys who did everything FedEx required. A truck? They bought it. Need a bigger truck? They bought it. Hire, train, and employ a second driver all at their expense if their route became too large? They did that too. And when FedEx introduced the ISP model, (now currently being rolled out in my home state of PA) it caused a wave of consolidations and pseudo-partnerships between drivers fearful of not having a chair when the music stopped. Future contractors in the ISP model would be required to own and service on average 500 stops per day; roughly 4-5 routes. Someone would have to go. And by creating that dynamic, FedEx Ground not only affected the price a distressed driver might receive on a fair and open market; why buy the cow at full price when you can eventually get the milk for free or at a huge discount?; but they also have now opened themselves up to the liability of drivers who are no longer contractually beholden to them; drivers who now can finally organize. Drivers who can stand side by side with our UPS brethren when needed? A seat at the table.

Mr. Hoffa, what I am asking is help from the Teamsters in creating a better working environment at FedEx Ground. As I stated previously, I am employed, as possibly many other drivers from the former IC model are, by one of the small businesses currently contracted with FedEx Ground. The owner, my boss if you will, is a former partner and a close personal friend who has treated me as best he can the past several years. But his ability to pay a more fair wage, including overtime and paid time off and a health benefit and retirement package similar to what FedEx Express employee drivers receive is hampered by the tight-fisted robber barons at FedEx Ground and FedEx Corp. I know he would do more for his employees if he weren’t hamstrung by the archaic system originally created in the Independent Contractor model which included only token pay for truck loading, pay by the stop, and possibly the biggest of all insults, one pay scale no matter the size of the delivery. That’s right. As a driver the rate is the same for an envelope as it is for 13 cases of wine or 8 oversized tires with rims and fully inflated (there’s more behind what you see in the pictures).

It’s up to you and the Teamsters Mr. Hoffa. You always wanted a crack at FedEx, here’s opportunity knocking. Will you and your brotherhood open the door and accept the challenge, or will you allow us to believe what many big businesses now say; the Teamsters no longer have the power they once did. Show us! Let’s all of us put on our big boy pants!
Eerie

Take Down Those Lights and Put That Tree Away!

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

It happens every year and the older I get the worse it gets. It could be a neighbor, maybe a Target or a Kohl’s, or even a grocery store. The Christmas season envelope gets pushed further and advertised earlier than it ever has in the past. Raise your hand if you’ve already seen a TV commercial or department store display aimed at potential Christmas shoppers. Enough already, I haven’t even given out my first fortune cookie for Halloween yet. It is amazing how many of these you can save up after a year of eating take-out Chinese food. If you were a kid which would you choose, the cookie that could explain your future or some nasty old pennies wrapped in Saran Wrap and tied with orange ribbon? The cookie I’ll bet.

The point, which I’ve obviously lost track of, is I’m a kid from the 1960’s and for me, October through December was defined by the celebration of three events, Halloween and the preceding night, Mischief Night,  Thanksgiving and all of the creative ways to cook left-over turkey, and Christmas with all of its toys and the birth of our Savior. I would be a liar if I told you as a kid the birth of Jesus ranked ahead of getting a year’s worth of new toys. Anyway, with each of these three important events, there were TV specials that defined that holiday and triggered a series of events culminating in Christmas and the just as important, Winter Break in the Evesham Township School District. And the birth of our Savior.

Charlie Brown and the other apparently parent-less Peanuts kids had no competition when it came to shows celebrating the joy of Halloween or the feast that was Thanksgiving and the importance of having enough bread to make all of that toast. Or for wandering the neighborhood at all times of the night. A Charlie Brown Christmas had much more competition, but even at my advanced age remains my favorite, sorry Grinch, mostly because we both have Beagles. Maybe if Max were a beagle I would feel differently.

My point is, each of these holidays owned a portion of the calendar, not to be infringed upon by either of the other two. You didn’t make out your Christmas list or mail your Christmas cards at Halloween, you didn’t wear your Halloween costume at the Thanksgiving dinner table (unless you were an Indian or a pilgrim for Halloween, then you could probably pull it off), and your parents didn’t start decorating the house for Christmas until at least after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were disposed of during the long 4-day weekend. In my parents house, the end of the Thanksgiving holiday signaled my father to send a kid up in the attic to retrieve the outdoor Christmas lights and to go into the garage and retrieve the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood he used to begin the month long construction of the train platform my family enjoyed every year.

If you’re still wondering the reasons for this semi-incoherent rant; it would be the neighbor who this week I saw has already put out Christmas lights. No, they’re not Halloween lights, these are the red, blue, and green lights of Christmas, not the orange lights one would expect in October.

And the small package Halloween costumes I used to deliver have been replaced by giant artificial Christmas trees. Already. In October. Before Thanksgiving even.

And the oversized Amazon boxes containing the biggest toy a parent can buy. No, not big as in popular, big as in the bigger the toy, the more a parent must really love their child. Whatever happened to love comes in smaller boxes? And nothing says love like a nice 6-pack of tube socks or underwear.

And the endless arguments about stores opening or not on Thanksgiving Day. How about retailers (and FedEx and UPS) give employees Black Friday off as well. Consumers will still spend their hard earned money 24 hours later. You can call it Cafe Noir Saturday which is the color of brewed coffee, but still a shade of black. Think of the impact to the coffee industry from  consumers saying Cafe Noir Saturday instead of just Black Friday.

I’m not trying to dictate how people should enjoy their holidays because not enough people will even read this to make a difference. People should do as they please no matter how over the top it appears. And if you’re the only one in you’re neighborhood who already has their Christmas lights up, I would be willing to bet you’re neighbors are saying the same thing, just behind your back.

It’s not Halloween yet and I’m already pushing burnout from the overselling of Christmas. 

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Giant

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send New Lawyers Over!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the attorneys at Leonard Carder LLP in California. It appears you did a fantastic job getting a fair and equitable settlement for your fellow residents of California. Well done. Unfortunately when it came to We the 12,000 contractors in the multi-state settlement, we were left with whatever scraps you and FedEx decided to which we were entitled. It’s fortunate that they didn’t offer us free cafe lattes at Java World first, otherwise I get the feeling we would all be drinking coffee free for the next year.

If I come off as ungrateful it’s because I am. Please don’t delude yourselves into thinking it’s just me not appreciating your talents and hard work, the woods are filled with more just like me! Some, more than willing to protest this misbegotten settlement; some, the silent majority (?) who hate the deal but need the money more; and some who no longer have a stake in the game, tired of the Purple Promise and after having left long ago are ecstatic to be getting money they never expected to be awarded.

I don’t pretend to be a legal expert, but I’ve watched Suits and Boston Legal often enough, read enough John Grisham, even saw the movie Erin Brockovich, twice! This settlement has nothing to do with the differences between California employment law vs. the rest of the country; it simply represents the sell-out of We the 12,000 non-California contractors who performed all of the same duties, wore all the same clothing, bought and paid for all the same equipment, worked all of the same uncompensated overtime, delivered all of the same packages, and showered and groomed every bit as well as they did. So how in the name of Sam Hill could our west coast brothers be entitled to $150-$200 per week more than the rest of us? It’s outrageous, aggregious, and preposterous! Was anyone actually doing the math? At $41.13 /week, that breaks down to $8/day or 75 cents/hour. That doesn’t even put the half in time and a half. What legal team would agree to such ridiculous amounts? Possibly a legal team whose interest at this point is only the collection of their fees and who are no longer willing to fight the good fight? Convinced in their own minds that these settlements are fair to all involved.

So where does that leave We the 12,000? For now I would say we were, “attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis.” But we may surprise ourselves yet. Maybe we can unite and make our objections heard, long and loud enough that the legal system that binds us will see this proposed settlement for what it really is, a pathetic attempt at paying off the masses for their silence. And if the legal system agrees and orders the two sides back to the table with new counsel for We the 12,000, I suggest this should be our own Artificial legal dream team;

  • Lead Chair-Saul Goodman who the other lawyers will hate because of his second-rate education, but won’t hesitate to get in the mud when it’s needed.
  • Second Chair-Daniel Caffey can finally get that set of steak knives he lost on A Few Good Men. 
  • Third Chair-Jake Brigance can say to Fred Smith and his hatchet men, “Now imagine, you’re a contractor.” And the whole courtroom will weep for our pain.
  • Fourth Chair-Harvey Specter who lives by the rule, “The success of the client is a success of yours.” He would never settle for $41.13/week. Why should we?

It’s not over unless we say it’s over.
Artificial

Looking More Presidential Every Day?

Jerry, Jumbo, the Coolidge Effect and a short history of past Presidential carryings-on.

With each and every day comes a new Donald Trump allegation of improper sexual behavior. Since I have a job which allows me plenty of hours to ponder such things, I found myself asking, how could we trust and elect such an alleged, but not yet proven, groper of women? And unfortunately for Trump, so are many in his own party. And while Mr. Trump is more than happy with the size of his hands, his inability to use his best words, words he told us he has, have been unable to stem the tide of party defections. But then again, he was never their candidate, he was the peoples candidate chosen during the Republican Primaries this year. Their stated support of his candidacy was nothing more than a timid attempt at party unity and that some of these supporters, defeated by him after an ugly primary and series of debates, may be getting the last laugh.

But I want to know, how would Donald Trump fit into the mold of a POTUS? Well, if you go back through history you would see he fits right in. Many of our past Presidents have had their own sex scandals and marital affairs. Some you may know, others not so much. It would be easy to bring up the affairs of Bill Clinton or John F. Kennedy, but I went back and tried to find some I wasn’t even aware of-

  • Warren G. Harding is probably one of the worse Presidents in U.S. History for reasons other than his politics. Harding had two notable affairs and fathered at least one child in those relationships, not to mention paid hush money to keep one of the affairs secret. Warren G. also liked to take the action to one of the coat closets in the anteroom…relying on the Secret Service to knock if Mrs. Harding showed up (don’t look for this on the White House tour). Apparently him and Jerry…yes he named his man part…saw plenty of action, but claimed his marriage to Florence was only…”necessary for appearance sake.”
  • Grover Cleveland was a lawyer in Buffalo, NY, when a young woman named Maria Crofts Halpin claimed to have had a son after Cleveland sexually assaulted her. Because of Cleveland’s political maneuvers, her son wound up in a foster home and Halpin was sent to an insane asylum. This story came out when Cleveland ran for President in 1884. Grover’s opponents chanted “Ma, ma, where’s my Pa?” and after Cleveland’s victory, his supporters came up with their own chant: “He’s gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!” I wonder what they said during his campaign.
  • This was never in my school history books, but James Buchanan may have been our first openly gay President. A bachelor, Buchanan lived for 15 years with pro-slavery Alabama Senator William Rufus King. In Washington, Buchanan and King were commonly called “Siamese twins,” which is possibly slang for gay and lesbian couples during this era. The always Ignorant Former President Andrew Jackson referred to King as “Miss Nancy.” In a letter to President James Polk’s wife, Democrat Aaron Brown called King, Buchanan’s “better half,” “his wife,” and “Aunt Fancy”.
  • We all know Lyndon Johnson became President after the assassination of Kennedy. While many marvel at the number of women JFK had affairs with, Johnson had his own affairs. He actually brags about bedding more women than Kennedy. Johnson and “Jumbo”, yes he named his too, also carried on two long term affairs. One of 20 years with a woman named Madeline Brown and another 30 year romp with a woman named Alice Glass. Johnson, always proud of Jumbo, never hesitated to show him off, even if the moment wasn’t quite right. Jumbo is also the answer to the question, “Why are we still in Veitnam?” To that question the President unfurled Jumbo and said, “Here’s why!”
  • Calvin Coolidge and the Coolidge Effect? One day, the President and Mrs. Coolidge were visiting a farm. They were taken off on separate tours and as they passed the chicken pens, Mrs. Coolidge asked the man in charge if the rooster was good for more than once a day. “Dozens of times,” was the reply from the man in charge, to which Mrs. Coolidge is said to have responded, “Please tell that to the President”. When the President passed the pens he was told about the rooster, and asked “Same hen every time?” After he was told it was a different one every time, President Coolidge nodded, saying, “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.” And what is the Coolidge Effect? This idea, the sensation of men becoming rearoused by the idea or presence of a new female, or in laboratory testing- a rat will tire of having sex with the same rat all of the time, but when you put a new rat in front of him, his sex drive becomes reinvigorated.

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Jerry? Jumbo? The Donald? Maybe we’ve misjudged his small hands after all. Maybe he really is ready to become President of the United States. Two questions remain-Do we trust him, and are we going to put him there?
Trust

Donald, Hillary & Just One Positive Thing

At the end of the day, did they make us believe their answers to a truly pointless question?

Anyone who chose not to or was unable to watch the 2nd Presidential Debate last night missed one of the more heartwarming moments of the campaign. It was without question however none of these…

No…Bill didn’t share an I’ve Missed You Hug with the targets of his former dalliances, conveniently seated nearby thanks to some last minute seating arrangements.

No…Grandmom Hillary didn’t invite the grandkids up on stage after the debate to watch their mother, Chelsea, reprise her role of the Favorite Aunt in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

No…Hillary didn’t give a special shout-out to FBI Director James Comey thanking him for all of his years of service…and for looking the other way on all those emails.

No…Hillary didn’t invite all of Donald’s  Deplorables on stage to apologize and then send them lovingly away with a slice of Grandmom Hillary’s Apple Pie.

No…Donald didn’t promise if elected he would pardon away Hillary deleting those emails. In fact, he pledged to hire a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary and throw her in jail if warranted (much to the delight of his supporters I’m sure).

No…Donald didn’t invite all of Mexico over to his place for a Cinco de Mayo festival next year. Not even the good ones as he likes to call them.

No…The former students of Trump U did not come on stage to thank The Donald for the world class education they received at his university. 

And No…New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not step on stage to tell Donald it was all a big misunderstanding, that the notice to stop fundraising he sent to the Donald J. Trump Foundation was just for laughs.

What you would have seen and heard in this sometimes out-of-control town hall meeting was a question straight out of a marriage encounter retreat…or from my 4th grade school teacher after she broke up a fight between me and my no longer best friend Danny Kelly on the playground.

The final question of the night’s political pillow fight (you know what I mean, everyone swings real hard but nobody really gets hurt) came from Undecided Voter Karl Becker, who asked the two candidates;

“My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

Here is where Donald absolutely outshines Hillary. His answer, no matter how insincere it was, actually was mostly complimentary and somewhat thought out. Hillary on the other hand, refused to compliment Trump himself, choosing the more indirect route of saying he had great kids.

From Hillary:

“Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.” Say what you want about her, but she didn’t fall into the trap of praising her opponent directly.

And then Mr. Trump dove right into the pool without his water wings:

“She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter,” Trump said. “I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for. I do disagree with her judgment in many cases. But she does fight hard, and she doesn’t quit, and she doesn’t give up. And I consider that to be a very good trait.”

Trump then politely thanked Clinton for her disingenuous flattery of his children (it was that obvious), and Hillary then silently thanked Trump for supplying the next sound bite in her TV and radio ads.

 Flattery

An Open Letter to Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr.

re: Willis v. FedEx Class Action Lawsuit

Your Honor,

Please, do not approve the proposed settlement in the Willis v. Federal Express class action lawsuit! I can’t speak for all of the members of this class action, but to allow FedEx off the hook after years of mis-classifying employees as contractors is a terrible miscarriage of justice.

The proposed settlement comes nowhere near re-paying We the Mis-Classified Employees of FedEx Ground for years of paying FedEx’s expenses. New trucks and maintenance, FedEx uniforms, scanners, customer complaints and claims (not always investigated) and employer taxes were all paid by us when FedEx should have been covering them as part of their own business model. As part of their model, drivers were also not paid for stops requiring a customer signature that went un-delivered because the customer was not available. How many thousands of stops do you think this represents? Unpaid stops legitimately attempted by the driver, yet unpaid by FedEx. I understand that the settlement was reached with FedEx claiming they did nothing wrong, but if you owned a business, why would you pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to thousands of people who couldn’t afford their own attorney, if you truly believed you did nothing wrong? Please, do not approve this deal.

FedEx has also led the public to believe that their new business model has changed and that they only do business with companies who have their own employees. This may be among the biggest hoaxes they’ve floated to date. Many of these so-called companies are the same contractors they used in their flawed contractor model. Their employees? In many cases are former single route drivers who can no longer afford to fulfill the FedEx Purple Promise. FedEx has ruled that there will be no more single route drivers and that these businesses must own a larger number of stops per day, forcing some single route drivers to give up their route prior to the implementation of the new FedEx ISP model, unable to meet FedEx’s new standard. There are only so many stops per day to go around, and since they will now be requiring owners to have a minimum of 500 per day, someone will have to go. And if what FedEx has claimed is true, that these former route drivers were businesses, then their actions have also not only driven down the price that these distressed single route drivers could expect to receive trying to sell off a route, but it was a way of forcing them out of what they (not me) would call, business. Why would these new employee based businesses pay top dollar for a route when they know that the distressed route owner has to sell to get out? Or why not just wait, if the driver is unable to sell, FedEx can just assign the route to the business that makes the most geographical sense. Again, I ask you, please do not approve this settlement.

The system that the administrators and FedEx used for calculating payments is also extremely suspect. They have calculated that if you worked 35 or more hours per week then you are entitled to a settlement of $41.13 for each of those weeks. This after having sent documents stating the rate was $65.83 per week. What business or legal entity would send a letter so grossly wrong to 12,000 people? Their needs to be some investigation into this type of incompetence. Having done this job since July 2001, I can tell you, if you only worked 35 hours in a week you were lucky. We switched to larger trucks around 2004 which meant that our hours of service had to include time spent loading our trucks. It’s my opinion that drivers actually worked closer to 45-50 hours per week, and during the busier peak season 60-70 hours or more. I will also tell you that many drivers did not include these hours when logging onto scanners in the morning for fear of violating their hours of service limitations. And FedEx managers knew it. I won’t say they openly suggested it, but when they signed off on daily settlements, they knew what the drivers were doing and what they were signing. Ask me about the snowy morning they closed the doors, refusing to let drivers leave until one of their late trailers was unloaded. What is that? Kidnapping? False Imprisonment? Please, do not give into corporate greed and send them back to the table.

I also have questions about the resources used to calculate these settlements. I started with FedEx in July of 2001 with a signed operating agreement. I drove full time and was dispatched from a terminal in Pennsylvania, just as the settlement requires. I still am . Yet in conversations with other drivers, most are being paid more than me, sometimes up to $10,000 more. If I meet all of the requirements, have been there longer than any other driver, why would others be receiving more in the settlement? As stated previously, I have no faith in the ability of FedEx to properly determine the correct settlement for time served. Are they only using hours based on scanner information, if so, we didn’t even have scanners when we started at FedEx. Where are they pulling their information from?? Who knows??? There has been no communication on this issue. Do I have to lawyer-up and subpoena the information from FedEx? 

Federal Express has employees they call Contractor Relations. Require Federal Express to use these employees and the law suit administrators, to sit down with each distressed driver and go over their individual numbers. To many of us it’s too important to just throw our hands up and say, “We’ll take it.” For many of us, this is our pension, this is the money we will use to pay off those credit cards still filled with charges related to years of driving for FedEx. A chance to get out of debt. Debt that not one single FedEx employee has had to incur while they drove for FedEx. And tragically, after living life week to week, this may also be all of the money they have ever been able to save while driving a FedEx route.

Your Honor, just to let you know how much we drivers really cared for FedEx customers, I’ve imageincluded a photo showing you how one resourceful driver did everything possible to keep a FedEx customer package dry from the weather and safe from those who might want to steal it. And they left a door tag. And FedEx probably charged that driver $280 (depending on the actual date this was done) for leaving the package at an improper location. See how they are? And the photo at the top? The customer failed to sign their artwork, so the driver was not allowed to leave the package according to FedEx policy. We deserve better for that kind of adherence to their rules and our courteous and careful service in crappy weather.

Please your honor, do not approve this deal. Doing so would be a miscarriage of justice and only serve to allow FedEx to get away with their charade.
Careful