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

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

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

Frederick X vs. We The People

We The People and Mr. Unremarkable battle another tyrannical King and his Intolerable Acts.

This is an Unremarkable work of fiction. Whether you believe it to be a work of historical fiction or a story created in the mind of an angry, Unremarkable old man is up to you. The resemblance of any individuals or corporations in this work to actual individuals or corporations is purely coincidental and in the imagination of the reader. Angry, Unremarkable old men occasionally need a villain to blame for the injustices which make them angry. Sometimes that villain is a king.

When in the course of human events…it sometimes becomes necessary for the rabble to rise up and challenge the financial strains placed on them by a king who resides far from their homes, yet uses them to enrich his vast coffers. That ruler, who sneers down from on high at those he believes not worthy, is FREDERICK X, from here forward referred to as FRED X, and who besides being an iron-fisted monarch, was a no-good, money-grubbing, glory-hound of a businessman.

And he was smart. Fred X surrounded himself with cut throats, lackeys, yes-men, idea-men, both good and bad, and a horde of lawyers to defend those good and bad ideas. It seems the only thing Fred X’s castle didn’t have were mirrors with which to look yourself in the face, and a singing conscious-guiding cricket. But even with all of the aforementioned pirates to help guide and defend his business, there was one thing that perplexed Fred X, how could he make the rabble pay his taxes and expenses from said business? His lackeys were stumped, his yes-men agreed with him…but thought he was crazy, and his idea men were clueless. It wasn’t until the cut throats met with the lawyers over lattes at a local coffee emporium that a solution was found.

And here born was the Independent Contractor. Independent as in refusing to be under obligation to others and contractor meaning someone who is party to a contract. This position the cut-throats and lawyers reasoned…as much as cut-throats and lawyers can reason, would sign what they laughingly termed an operating agreement to work for Fred X, and only Fred X, and in return Fred X would give them their own territory, a protected primary area of service it could be called. Those who bought into this skullduggery would think themselves entrepreneurs, like fools they would pay the king’s taxes, absorb some of his expenses, they would wear Fred X’s colors and display his coat of arms, and they work from sun up until sun down and later with not so much as a hint of overtime pay or paid time off.

Fred X was beside himself with delight. The cut-throats and the lawyers had done it. And as thanks he would give the cut-throats the new title of Contractor Relations. The lawyers he knew would get their enjoyment finding new ways to plunder future Contractor earnings. He would also allow them to discharge his yes-men. They would have fun doing that, and if needed he could hire new yes-men later. And most important, those zany financial talking heads would adore his company and heap praise upon the genius that was Fred X.

Like all great rebellions, it’s not exactly known where or when its seeds were sewn. Employee unions and Fred X’s largest competitor spent time and money railing against the Independent Contractor model. We The People were not businesses they screamed, but simply mis-classified employees being used by the king. And as the word spread, more and more lawyers around the country arrived in courts to sue Fred X for his terrible mis-treatment of The People… and to put their own hands into the pockets of The People. Lawsuits were filed in far away courts on the left coast, still others combined multiple locations and jurisdictions into one bundle to be ruled on by learned judges of higher courts.

“We strongly disagree with the challenges to the Independent Contractor scheme”, Fred X and his lawyers repeated over and over again. But legal challenges  to the king’s business model mounted and the lawyers soon saw the hair on the wart that was the Independent Contractor lie. So the lawyers and the cut-throats met once more over lattes and came up with another business scheme. This one they called PIS, short for Provider of Independent Service.

This time even Fred X was initially taken aback by the level of deceit the lawyers and cut-throats had established. Their new business plot was both brilliant and devious and oozed with the legal sliminess only the most talented lawyers could invent. Single service area contractors, the backbone of the Independent Contractor model will be required to purchase additional areas of service or sell out to other providers. If they are unable to do so…we will thank them for their years of service and financial investment, take back their service area and assign it to a different provider. And all of this legal jibber-jabber will allow us to announce that we are no longer working with Individual Contractors and that we only work with businesses that use employees. The owners of these new employing-using businnesses will be allowed to negotiate with Fred X the value of their services. And, here is the best part, these new businesses will sign away their right to sue Fred X in the future as part of the PIS scam. Past lawsuits with The People could now be settled for pennies on the dollar. Fred X nearly passed out as he sat upon his golden chair, thankfull there were no mirrors upon which to look himself in the face or singing crickets offering conscious-guiding advice.

But this my friends may not be the end of this tale, this assault on We The People. For many of these businesses Fred X works with are the same Independant Contractors he abused before, just re-branded to fit into the king’s new PIS model. How long will it be until they experience the same level of displeasure with Fred X’s new model? How long will it be before they learn the art of contract negotiation with Fred X, which is to say, no matter how much you value your business contribution to Fred X, it will be the king and his court of jesters who will determine your worth to the king. How long will it be until dissension among The People sets in as they learn through the grapevine the value of one business vs. another?

And now, in a Podunk little town in the southeast corner of the newly re-named territory of Wentzylvania, new voices cried out to just themselves. Older voices, long-time servants of  Fred X, disturbed by the amount the bundled lawsuits were settled for. If We The People were indeed employees of Fred X, then these settlements come nowhere close to our investments into the King’s business. The attorneys in the action of We The People vs. Frederick X had settled, and We The People had been weighed on the scales of justice…and have been found wanting. Congratulations King Fred, the riches of the kingdom remain yours…but don’t spend them all in one place. This isn’t over until We The People say it’s over!