Thursday, July 9, 2009

Senators are considering a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration that could foul up overnight delivery for medical patients, the military and every mom-and-pop business in the country. If the bill passes, needed packages absolutely, positively will not be there overnight.

The FAA reauthorization, as passed by the House of Representatives on May 21, contains a 230-word amendment that would apply only to FedEx Express, and that would put the company under onerous labor policies that it never has faced in its 38 years in business. The Senate ought to leave the provision out of its version of the bill.

Like other airline-based businesses, FedEx Express currently operates under the auspices of the Railway Labor Act, which has worked since 1926 to provide for impartial means to resolve labor disputes quickly and fairly without strikes. The House provision, pushed by the Teamsters Union and by rival package deliverer UPS, would make FedEx Express be governed by the National Labor Relations Act — which effectively could allow one small, local union strike in Any Big Town, USA, to hobble overnight delivery nationwide.

This anti-FedEx provision is a sop to big Democratic donors from the Teamsters and from UPS, who combined have donated more than $164,000 to the provision’s House sponsor, Rep. James L. Oberstar, Minnesota Democrat.

Express delivery service is important to countless lives. Nearly 20 percent of FedEx Express’ 3.37 million daily deliveries involve critical needs such as key industrial supplies and, more dramatically, overnight drugs and medical equipment. On an average day, this includes more than 8,000 kidney dialysis systems and more than 11,000 in vitro diagnostic substances. FedEx Express also is one of the largest logistic providers for the Department of Defense.

The delivery of business forms, contracts, birthday presents and other items might be less headline-grabbing, but they nonetheless are essential for Americans in our daily work and lives. FedEx Express is a great American success story precisely because it is so reliable — yet the Oberstar provision could put that reliability at risk, through no fault of the company.

When it comes to overnight delivery service, Congress ought to leave well enough alone.

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