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FedEx CEO talks shipping delays and federal vaccine mandate for employees

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 10:25 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When asked recently about this year’s holiday shipping season, FedEx founder and CEO, Fred Smith, said, “We are ready.”

Smith said all your packages should be safely beneath the tree on Christmas morning, but it all depends on one critical part of the supply chain.

That one thing is manpower. Smith spent a couple of days visiting the frontlines of his shipping empire. He is acutely aware of how many FedEx employees do not want to get the mandated COVID-19 vaccine.

Memphis attorney Alan Crone told Action News 5 the phones are lighting up at his law office. Bosses and workers alike asking for advice about President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“People trying to figure out whether or not they can avoid the vaccine mandate, whether they have to abide by it, and whether or not they have any recourse if their employer tries to fire them over it,” said Crone.

FedEx is Memphis’ largest employer, with 30,000 workers locally. Smith said his frontline managers made it crystal clear to him that there is vaccine hesitancy among the workforce.

“I’m vaccinated,” Smith told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday. “We’ve made every effort. We pay bonuses to get people to get vaccinated. But the people that make this country’s logistics system go, a large percentage, simply do not want to be vaccinated.”

The Biden administration did give FedEx and other shipping and transportation companies an early Christmas present by moving the date to comply with the vaccine mandate from December 8 to January 4.

“Essentially, the supply chain folks wouldn’t have to comply before Christmas so that the Christmas season can work its way through without those mandates,” said Crone.

Smith said a lack of workers contributes to supply chain issues as does an outdated American infrastructure. He called Congress passing Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill “a step in the right direction.”

Crone believes the White House vaccine mandate, on pause now after a federal appeals court ruling over the weekend, will ultimately head to a higher court.

“You’re probably going to have to get the Supreme Court to make the final determination before you have any certainty,” said Crone.

FedEx put out the call for holiday help and people are starting to respond.

Smith said the company’s gone from processing 50,000 applications a day the week of May 8 to more than 90,000 a day the week of November 1.

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