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FedEx Takes a Hit, but Cohen Gets Kudos for a Last-Ditch Stand

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9th District congressman Steve Cohen, who has had his share of successes as a first-termer – particularly in well-regarded interrogations of Justice Department officials in the ever-broadening Attorney-gate scandal – ended up on the losing side Thursday, but won the admiration of the winners.

As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Cohen eloquently but unsuccessfully opposed an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that reclassified FedEx ground employees and made the home-town industry and well-known national cargo carrier more vulnerable to strikes.

The amendment, backed by rival carrier UPS, puts the FedEx ground workers under the umbrella of the National Labor Relations Act rather than the Railway Labor Act, which had previously governed all Fed-Ex employees and which imposes more restrictions on local, as against national, labor actions.

Noting he’d been warned that both organized labor and Transportation Committee chairman James Oberstar (D-Minnesota) had “long memories,” the Memphis congressman recalled that he had stood with labor on a variety of issues but had to “speak truth to power” on the FedEx amendment, which, he said, could result in shutdowns of national commerce and affect national security.

The result? Chairman Oberstar, who had authored the amendment, which passed 51-18, had this to say: “The chair does have a very long memory indeed – for a member’s integrity, and I respect that of the gentleman from Tennessee. He spoke with his heart and from his experience, and we appreciate that.”

See the video of Cohen's remarks here.

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