If you watch enough television you’ve no doubt seen the commercials touting the stories of loyal Federal Express employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in delivery services for appreciative customers worldwide.
The commercials also encourage you to visit the corporation’s website Fedexstories.com where you can read about FedEx heroes such as Robert Terulli of Paramus, NJ who scrambled to pick up the packages that a customer had mistakenly shipped to his own New Jersey home rather than the Florida address where they were vacationing thus salvaging the family’s holiday. Or Robert Janeczko of Moon Township, PA who “personally dug through trailers” to locate a client’s packages that were needed for a trade show. It’s inspiring stuff. But here’s a FedEx story you won’t see.
Tom Kennedy of Clinton Township, MI had been a driver for Federal Express for 17 years right up until the time he was fired in early 2005 for a minor clerical mistake - that of inputting numbers into his tracking computer in error.
Nobody’s package got lost. No missing freight. He didn’t steal anything. In fact, until that time, Kennedy’s record with the company had been exemplary. He had never been cited for a disciplinary infraction and for all 17 years had maintained a perfect driving record. Pretty good for someone who had averaged 50-60 hours on the road each week.
However, that didn’t stop a Senior Manager at FedEx’s Clinton Township facility from canning Kennedy for his typo. Without a union to fight on his behalf and having exhausted his appeals through FedEx’s chain of command, Kennedy, his wife, and two high school age children faced a future clouded with economic uncertainty.
Kennedy’s infraction at Federal Express, however, didn’t stop shipping rival DHL from offering Kennedy a position with that company. One look at his geographic knowledge of the area, his driving record, his familiarity with delivery and record-keeping, and Kennedy was back on the road within weeks. But, as it turns out, the situation there wasn’t much better than being unemployed.
Kennedy was hired on as a “ten-percenter”, or an on-call employee, and because of his experience and expertise with FedEx, was put to work immediately with a promise of full time employment as “just soon as something opened up”. That was two years ago and despite the rapid corporate expansion described on the DHL website, nothing has changed for Kennedy. DHL, cited repeatedly by organizers for its union-busting ways, still calls Kennedy – one, two, four times a week. It varies. Two years on call. No benefits. No more promises. And that’s a union shop.
In the meantime, he and his family have exhausted savings and struggled to meet medical bills. Their two high school age boys long ago stopped participating in school sport programs and other activities where an injury might result. His wife, Connie, who suffers from lupus disease, a condition that turns the body’s defenses against the body itself by attacking healthy cells, has gone back to work full time in an effort stave off bank foreclosure on their home.
“I’ve looked hard for solid work for two years now,” Kennedy told me last week. “I don’t know what else to do. I won’t let the bank take my home.” As it turns out, that may not happen.
Kennedy finally got called for an interview. It’s for a job in Baghdad, Iraq. He’ll make enough money to keep his home. Maybe his kids can play basketball or skateboard again. His wife won’t have to work on those days when her joints are aching beyond belief, her head throbs, and she has trouble breathing.
If he gets hired, they say that he’ll be working in the Green Zone and can come home for two weeks each year of his two year contract. That’s a small comfort to his ailing wife and kids, one of which will graduate from high school while he’s gone.
Make a commercial about that, FedEx.