A Google search for “Brown Bailout” brings two sponsored links: the Brown Bailout website and the UPS information page.
And the Brown Bailout ads have been bombarding the Web via Google Ads.
In an age in which banks and auto companies have received taxpayer rescues, the word “bailout” has become politically incendiary, and not analogous to changing the labor law that governs FedEx Express truck drivers, a point that UPS makes when rebutting FedEx’s claim.
“In no way, shape or form could this be called a bailout. It doesn’t have any factual basis at all” said Kara Ross, a UPS spokesperson. “We’re seeking equal treatment under the law.”
This point is echoed by UPS’s allies on Capitol Hill. Jim Berard, spokesperson for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is chaired by Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Wis.) said, “It’s a matter of equal protection under the law that people doing the same work should be covered by the same set of labor laws and not one particular company exempted from that law.”
But FedEx defends the use of the word bailout. “It’s a rescue from financial distress” said Maury Lane, director of communications for FedEx, who compared the law change to throwing a monkey wrench in FedEx’s operations. “This provision was written by UPS, was written for UPS and only benefits UPS.”
But as UPS is quick to point out on its own fact page, having employees governed by the NLRB does not necessarily mean that they automatically become unionized. That’s a decision that employees make for themselves. And to complicate the dispute further, UPS even tried to get its own drivers classified under the RLA back in the 1990s, a move that FedEx supported at the time.
But for some, the “bailout” assignation is a below-the-belt rhetorical tactic. As Factcheck.org has pointed out, even some supporters of FedEx on the policy have balked at the use of the word “bailout” to describe the legislative measure. Conservative columnist George Will wrote last year, in a column supporting FedEx:
[P]roperly used, “bailout” denotes a rescue of an economic entity from financial distress. Although UPS is suffering from the recession, so is FedEx. Furthermore, UPS, whose revenue is 36 percent larger than FedEx’s, began advocating this injury to FedEx long before this recession.
The FAA bill passed last week funds the agency through the end of September, when Congress can either pass a 16th temporary extension, or vote on a larger bill that includes the “bailout” legislation. The complete FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 has been passed in both the House and the Senate, but was held up by a filibuster threat in the Senate. But the deadlock can’t entirely be blamed on hung on this small provision. The funding of a new satellite-based air traffic control system and the number of flights from Reagan National Airport are also controversial elements in the larger bill.