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FedEx, UPS Worker Unrest Could Upset Last-Mile Delivery War

Discontent simmering among delivery drivers could be the next wrinkle in the supply chain, with significant disruptions to the last mile.

While dockworkers, rail workers and truckers have been in the news of late for protests, collective bargaining disputes and strikes stateside and abroad, U.S. delivery drivers now appear to be banding together to advocate for their interests.

A FedEx Ground contractor on Wednesday announced the formation of the Trade Association for Logistics Professionals (TALP), which is aimed at advocacy for all logistics workers, but particularly the 6,000 contractors who make up the FedEx Ground network.

Spencer Patton, founder and president of FedEx contractor advisory and brokerage firm Route Consultant, is also a FedEx Ground owner-operator. He started TALP as a way for contractors to voice their concerns and petition for change.

“I am calling for FedEx Ground to recognize that its independent contractors are in financial distress,” Patton said in a video explaining the purpose of the association.

Formation of TALP comes after Patton publicly expressed his opinions last month on pay increases for contractors, who are paid on a per-stop basis, but made it clear in Wednesday’s video he’s not calling for uniform pricing. He went on to share his own experience of the logistics giant rejecting his rate renegotiation requests.

“The purpose of this trade association will be to exercise our constitutionally given First Amendment rights to voice our concerns as an industry, petition for change and, if necessary, participate in legal challenges against FedEx Ground around highly debatable topics, such as our current classification as contractors,” Patton said.

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A FedEx spokesperson declined to say on Wednesday whether the company was engaged in or had plans to be in communication with Patton since the TALP announcement, or whether it intended to be at a scheduled association conference set for later this month in Las Vegas.

“We have a long history of maintaining open lines of communication directly with individual service provider businesses and their owners and not through the media,” FedEx said in a statement to Sourcing Journal. “We remain committed to engaging in a productive dialogue with each business to understand and address any challenges they may be facing.”

John Smith, who heads up FedEx Ground, reportedly told contractors in a memo last week the company would not negotiate with any collective group and that discussion of their contract’s financial terms with one another is considered a contract breach.

Patton, in his video Wednesday, accused Smith’s letter of being “tone deaf and “out of touch with the economic health of their independent contractors.”

FedEx Ground is a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., accounting for about 35 percent, or $33.2 billion, of revenue during the company’s fiscal year 2022 ended May 31. It’s the second-largest business arm after FedEx Express, which generated $45.8 billion.

As FedEx Ground drivers look to gain a stronger voice through a collective advocacy group, UPS drivers, represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, made it clear on Monday they will push for a favorable contract when the current one expires July 31, 2023.

The union represents 350,000 UPS employees and said it will ramp efforts over the course of this year to create awareness arounud the upcoming contract negotiations.

The union said it’s looking to end what it called “excessive overtime” and is also calling for increased pay and more full-time jobs.

“UPS Teamsters are united and ready to mobilize in the fight for the best contract ever negotiated at UPS,” Teamsters general president Sean M. O’Brien said in a statement Monday. “UPS would not have its billion-dollar profits without hardworking Teamsters. Our message to UPS is that it’s time our contract reflects the essential work of our members.”

O’Brien also made it clear a contract agreement would be necessary by the Aug. 1, 2023 deadline, or negotiations would cease.

“We’ll either have a signed agreement that day or be hitting the pavement,” O’Brien said.

The same day the union clarified its stance on the upcoming contract negotiations, it also turned up the heat on UPS and what the company is doing to help drivers through the summer heatwaves.

The union has asked UPS to come back in two weeks with a plan outlining preventative measures to combat heat-related illness on the job, with one high-profile incident of a UPS driver stumbling in the Arizona heat captured in a viral video last month.

The Teamsters have asked for, among other things, fans to be placed inside trucks, along with water at all UPS facilities.