FedEx pilots informational picket in front of the FedEx Air Operations Center in Memphis, Tenn. Photo: Greg Campbell
Last year saw growth and a bold first in the bargaining arena for the FedEx Express Master Executive Council (MEC) and its pilots. The pilot group continued to grow throughout the year with nearly 600 new hires. And in October, the MEC sought the assistance of the National Mediation Board (NMB), the first time in FedEx history that mediation resulted from the pilots’ request instead of at management’s initiation.
With more than 3,000 pilots on the property who weren’t with the airline when the 2015 collective bargaining agreement was ratified, the MEC prioritized enhanced communication and unity building. The Strategic Preparedness and Family Awareness Committees kicked into high gear and hosted informational picketing, pilot rallies, and pilot unity building events, and new-hire classes are being held at the MEC office. In addition, the Negotiating Committee developed a “one-stop shop” website for all matters related to bargaining.
The Negotiating Committee continued its focused approach toward an industry-leading contract. Given the May 2021 historic protocol agreement that provided a focused agenda and goal of completing negotiations in an expedited fashion, the pilots were cautiously optimistic that a new contract would be accomplished. While tentative agreements on sections were made and progress continued at the table, it became clear to the MEC that it was time to apply more pressure.
“We had a realistic goal to achieve an amended agreement by the end of May 2022. Once it became apparent that wouldn’t occur, we decided to further engage our pilots,” remarked Capt. Chris Norman, the pilots’ MEC chair. “Hundreds of FedEx pilots, joined by pilots from around the industry, attended an informational picket in June at our Memphis hub to demonstrate our frustration with the state of negotiations.”
Negotiations continued over the summer, and the parties started presenting term sheets in September. That exchange prompted another public event. Growing increasingly frustrated with management’s lack of urgency to finalize an agreement, the MEC held an informational picket on Wall Street in New York City.
“The MEC leaders chose the center of the financial world as the next location to stand shoulder to shoulder to remind FedEx, our customers, and the investment banking community that ‘Now Is the Time,’” said Capt. Pat May, the Negotiating Committee chair. “It’s time for a contract that reflects our pilots’ contributions to this company. The product that we provide to FedEx and our customers isn’t measured in earnings per share, profit margin, or market cap. It’s far more consistent and reliable than any of those metrics. It’s the professional labor force that’s contributed to FedEx’s success and allowed it to become a logistics powerhouse. It’s time we get the contract we’ve earned.”
In early October, based on recommendations from the Negotiating Committee, the MEC authorized mediation with the NMB. Due to the limited number of open items remaining, the MEC took advantage of a program not commonly used by the NMB—expedited mediation—which required requesting that management join the MEC in the mediation filing. “It’s important to understand that this move marked the first time in the MEC’s history that ALPA initiated the move to the NMB,” explained Norman. “The expedited process provides an avenue for priority scheduling and more intensive mediation with a senior federal mediator based on the criteria that we provided to the NMB, and it’s the first of its kind to be used in a negotiation within ALPA.” The parties have further reduced the list of open items and have sessions scheduled for early 2023.
Unity remains the number one priority for 2023. “I can’t overstate the significance of pilot unity. We must be unified in our commitment to our contract, our individual and collective professionalism, and our respect for each other,” Norman said. “The opportunities and challenges change, but such unity must be the constant for our success.”
The 5,944 FedEx Express pilots are spread across the globe, represented by nine councils located in seven domiciles including pilots assigned to foreign duty in Hong Kong and Cologne, Germany. With more than 650 airports served worldwide, the airline has an extensive and varied fleet. FedEx pilots fly the most demanding flight schedules, reliably serving their customers around the world 365 days a year. The carrier delivers freight to more than 220 countries and territories, including every address in the United States.