The UPS v. FedEx "bitchfight"

Geoffrey Manne —  10 November 2009

Hilarious video from reason.tv.

(HT: Luke Froeb)

Geoffrey Manne

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President & Founder, International Center for Law & Economics

6 responses to The UPS v. FedEx "bitchfight"

  1. 

    Thanks for the comments. A few thoughts:

    – I for one really enjoyed “The Hangover.” I guess we could start there. You should also check out “Arrested Development” on DVD if you haven’t. Perhaps those aren’t fair comparisons — I do give them props here for trying, and the graphics are pretty good. But “hilarious” was too far.

    – And it’s interesting that you laughed at “bitchfight,” because it would be one thing to characterize this as “gee, look how crazy it is in Washington — UPS and FedEx are fighting about how their employees are regulated under federal labor law.” Kind of slapstick, everyone is down in the mud getting dirty, a farce, etc. But then you and the narrator get on the high horse and say UPS is acting contemptibly. That I don’t get. UPS is saying, “Hey, we’re competitors — why is FedEx subject to a different set of labor laws?” Would you object if UPS was trying to get itself subject to the RLA, instead of trying to get FedEx under the NLRA? If not, then your beef is with the NLRA, not UPS.

    – The only way to get the feds out of this would be to eliminate both the NLRA and the RLA. And I don’t know if FedEx and UPS would like that solution. The RLA makes it hard to call a strike and imposes million-dollar judgments if the union fails to follow proper procedures before striking. And the NLRA prohibits secondary strikes. Because of their obligations, both UPS and FedEx would be particularly vulnerable to these tactics if there were no federal labor law.

  2. 

    I take it back. He did say “easy.” I still think it’s a relative term, but that is what he said.

  3. 

    Matt: I’m not sure that anyone said it was “easy” to organize under the NLRA. I do think he said “easier.” Is that also incorrect? If not, I think it perfectly captures the issue here, even if “easier” is still not “easy.” That said, easy or not, the political economy issues here are indeed contemptible. If the playing field is un-level it is not FedEx’s fault. Do you really think there’s nothing problematic at all about one company “leveling the playing field” by trying to ensure that its competitors are as burdened as it is, consumers be damned? And the regulatory landscape is a part of the economic background–imposing costs unevenly as different firms are differently situated and differently able to deal with regulatory costs. Regulation need not be “level” (if that were really your concern I presume you’d be advocating for a flat tax, no state variation in regulation, no means-testing, no enforcement discretion at the EPA, the FTC or elsewhere, etc., etc.). As the video makes clear, there is sick logic to trying to raise your rivals’ costs, but it remains contemptible from a consumer welfare perspective. And yes the enemy really is the federal government that set up this massive rent-seeking apparatus. I love all those folks who decry money in politics but never seem to notice that there would be less money in politics (and less dead weight loss through rent-seeking) if the government were more limited. There is a direct correlation. Sure, businesses are unscrupulous in taking advantage–no one is absolving them. But they don’t have the obligations (or the cloak of legitimacy) that the government does. Finally, I do indeed find this funny and quite clever. I laughed out loud at “bitchfight.” I won’t presume to judge your sense of humor, but, pray tell, what is funny if not this?

  4. 

    A few points:

    – Geoff, if you think that is hilarious, I have a list of movies you should see. You need to get out more.

    – It ain’t “easy” to organize under the NLRA. If it were easy, unions wouldn’t be pushing for EFCA.

    – I don’t see why UPS is being “contemptible” here. They’re trying to make sure all the firms in the market are playing by the same rules. Why is that so “sick”? Plus, both the NLRA and the RLA are federal laws. So why are the feds the bad guys? Seems like a cheap and inaccurate rhetorical flourish.

    – You know, it’d be interesting to see what would happen if you just got rid of federal labor law. Sure, you’d have no more duty to bargain in good faith and unfair labor practices. But you also wouldn’t have protections against secondary picketing or hot cargo clauses or labor-related antitrust exemptions. So I wouldn’t necessary cast the feds as the enemy of business here. What kind of labor law would California create if it were left to its own devices?

  5. 

    Very nice. I love the Postal Service background music.

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