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Originally published March 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 25, 2009 at 10:52 AM

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FedEx's Boeing 777 order may hinge on labor law

FedEx said it may not buy 30 more Boeing 777 freighters if a federal law is changed to make it easier for its employees to join a union...

FedEx said it may not buy 30 more Boeing 777 freighters if a federal law is changed to make it easier for its employees to join a union.

Following through on those orders and options, with a list price of $7.7 billion, depends on FedEx employees continuing to be under the Railway Labor Act, the company said.

That law, which covers FedEx workers because the company was founded as an airline, requires a national vote if employees want union representation.

Legislation approved by a U.S. House panel March 5 would make it easier for drivers of Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx to vote locally to join unions, by placing the company under the National Labor Relations Act.

FedEx's larger rival, United Parcel Service, backs the proposed change, saying it would even the playing field. About half of UPS' employees belong to the Teamsters union, while FedEx's only unionized group is its pilots.

The Teamsters have been trying to win representation of FedEx drivers for years.

"If the regulatory and congressional environment remains hostile, there is virtual uncertainty over how we'd proceed," FedEx spokesman Maury Lane said Tuesday.

The change would "stymie competition and create an economic roadblock to recovery," he said.

"FedEx is an important Boeing customer and we understand the company's concerns about the proposed legislation," said Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx.

Boeing hasn't taken a position on the provision that would affect FedEx workers, he said.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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