FedEx Corporation will be making its 16th appearance as an advertiser at this year's event with a single 30-second spot. FedEx's Super Bowl commercial is an extension of its season-long NFL advertising campaign, and its affiliation as the NFL's "official worldwide delivery service sponsor." This season, FedEx has a specific website devoted to football, www.fedexfootball.com, prominently featuring Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, who also appeared in its ad campaign decrying the use of bad football clichés during the season. While FedEx's latest advertising tagline is "Relax, It's FedEx," it's clear that FedEx's workers cannot relax, to use a bad cliché. Neither can FedEx attorneys, with all the lawsuits the carrier is now facing for discrimination and misclassification of its workers.
Unlike chief competitors United Parcel Service and DHL, which are mostly unionized and represented by the Teamsters, and the U.S Postal Service, which is fully unionized, FedEx is essentially a non-union company, with only its pilots represented by a union. It is unlikely that FedEx workers will become union members any time soon, either: FedEx was instrumental in winning passage of a federal law specific to "express carriers" which requires a union to win a vote of all FedEx employees in certain job classifications, such as delivery driver or package sorter, rather than trying to win a series of votes at specific facilities, which is the more typical organizing method.
Another tool in FedEx's fight against unionization is its practice of calling FedEx Ground drivers independent contractors. Employees can vote to form unions, while independent contractors cannot unionize. Independent contractors can be exploited in other ways as well. Former FedEx driver Frank Cucinotti describes it this way: "They try to paint a picture of partnership, but you are actually an employee—an employee paying all the bills." Cucinotti is part of a national lawsuit against FedEx's use of the independent contractor classification for its drivers. In California, a court in December 2005 already rejected the practice and ordered FedEx to pay a group of misclassified workers $5.3 million for wages and expenses the workers wrongly incurred.
FedEx's workers get no time to relax under the current independent contractor arrangement. New Jersey driver Mike Tofaute says, "If you get to eat lunch, you're lucky," and keeps an empty juice bottle in his truck so he does not have to stop to use the bathroom. On one day before the holidays, he had to deliver 167 packages at 134 stops.
FedEx's minority employees can't relax either, if they're too busy worrying about their lower pay and poor work evaluations, while being passed over for promotions. In September of 2005, a federal judge certified a class-action discrimination lawsuit based on allegations the delivery service paid thousands of current and former minority employees less than their white counterparts, skipped them for promotions and gave minorities poor work evaluations. The case includes an estimated 10,000 current and former hourly workers and about 1,000 low-level management employees in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and parts of Texas. An attorney representing the class says that FedEx normally promotes from within, yet three times the number of package handlers and loaders are minorities compared to drivers, who earn more. Attorneys plan to present evidence that twice the number of minorities fail promotional tests than do whites.
FedEx's customers shouldn't relax, either, not even for the 30 seconds the company will use to reach its worldwide audience. Who can relax, if workers are absolutely, positively being mistreated this way?