FedEx Express pilots entered 2021 like the rest of the world—seeking to put the challenges of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, the pandemic was far from over and 2021 brought its own set of challenges, but it also brought opportunities. It was hard to imagine in December 2020 that in the next 12 months, FedEx pilots would deliver lifesaving vaccines and medical equipment all over the globe under extraordinarily taxing circumstances, open Section 6 negotiations under a historic protocol agreement, conduct 31 bargaining days encompassing the limited contract sections opened except for compensation and duration, and come together in dramatic showings of unity.
Throughout the pandemic, the FedEx pilots helped keep the world economy afloat and commerce moving. Through their efforts, millions of vaccines and lifesaving medical equipment were transported around the world. Pilots endured working conditions unlike any ever seen in FedEx’s history. From constant trip revisions, trip extensions, hotel isolation, close-contact protocols, personal protective equipment requirements, being sprayed with unknown chemicals, the threat of incarceration for COVID noncompliance in foreign countries, having to choose between rest and nutrition, and more, the pilots continued to deliver on FedEx’s “Purple Promise.” All of this contributed to an extraordinary backdrop as the FedEx Master Executive Council (MEC) prepared for Contract 2021 bargaining.
For the first time in this pilot group’s bargaining experience, a historic protocol agreement between the pilots and the company was reached. This agreement provides for a focused agenda, setting a 12-month goal to complete negotiations. In early May, the MEC Negotiating Committee exchanged Section 6 openers with management, marking another milestone in the negotiating history at FedEx. “Our opener targeted specific sections of our contract, and this didn’t occur by mistake,” explained Capt. Pat May, the Negotiating Committee chair. “The strength of our opener stemmed directly from our pilots’ input into the process. And while we see potential for this negotiation to be focused and expeditious, it will by no means be easy. However, with the support of our pilots, our Negotiating Committee, subject-matter experts, and professional negotiators, we’re very well situated to bargain from a position of power,” he added.
With 2,451 pilots hired after the 2015 agreement was ratified, and the pilot group intensely focused on Contract 2021 bargaining, the MEC recognized the importance of communication and unity building. Several pilot unity-building events were held online as a way for pilots to interact with MEC leaders. As COVID-19 restrictions were eased during the summer, in-person Family Awareness events were held in Anchorage, Alaska; Indianapolis, Ind.; and Memphis, Tenn., with hundreds of pilots and their families in attendance. As the current contract’s amendable date of November 1 drew near, the MEC held an amendable-date rally in Memphis. With more than 600 pilots and their families attending the rally, it was clear that the pilots are unified in their desire to achieve the contract they’ve earned and deserve.
As the pilots move forward into 2022, obtaining an industry-leading contract is at the forefront of their goals. “ALPA is our vehicle to protect and improve our working conditions at FedEx,” said Capt. Dave Chase, the MEC chair. “I believe there’s no contradiction in being proud of our careers while expecting compensation and benefits commensurate with the success of our efforts to the corporation’s bottom line. Never has our value and dedication been more obvious than over the course of the past year and a half.”
The 5,548 FedEx 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 some of the most demanding flight schedules, reliably serving its 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.