MTD President Michael Sacco called upon Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx to reverse the April 15 “Show Cause” order and reject the Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) application for a foreign air carrier permit.
President Sacco threw his strong support to the aviation workers who rallied on the issue outside the White House on May 12. Harkening back to the maritime industry’s battles over foreign flags of convenience ships, which have harmed American shipping and cost American jobs, Sacco wrote, “We take this stand because of this department’s history based on a similar circumstance that took place right after World War II. The MTD received its charter from the American Federation of Labor in 1946 as a direct result of the sell-off of American merchant vessels at extremely discounted prices to foreign operators to rebuild their war-torn fleets. To gain the business that was being carried by American-flag vessels with American crews, these foreign operators reduced costs drastically – including cutting wages, benefits and working standards – creating the “flag-of-convenience” (FOC) system that continues to this day to bedevil legitimate maritime nations and companies.
“The American government was complaisant 70 years ago. It should not repeat today this same mistake regarding American-flag air carriers.”
According to MTD affiliate CWA, NAI is a virtual airline created to undercut safety and labor standards and pay cheap wages. The company plans to use Thai and Singaporean contract workers to undermine collective bargaining agreements with Norwegian unions. As a means to evade Norway’s employment and tax laws, NAI plans to use the ploy of basing its corporate operation in Ireland, despite the fact that it does not offer air service to Ireland.
CWA added that the airline hopes to capture a share of the lucrative transatlantic market while following the same FOC model that undercut U.S. maritime jobs.
Last month the DOT gave tentative approval to a foreign air carrier permit for NAI that would enable it to offer expanded transatlantic air service, despite serious concerns about the violation labor standards.
CWA President Christ Shelton declared, “We must stop this race to the bottom when it comes to good jobs, in the aviation industry and all our industries.”
AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson added, “This tentative decision by the Department of Transportation threatens thousands of aviation jobs. The DOT’s failure to enforce labor provisions in the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement sends a message to workers: everything matters except you. The White House needs to fix this now for 300,000 aviation workers, our families, and our communities where we live and work.”
Sacco further noted, “Allowing NAI to offer service to the United States through a company that would benefit from offering its crew the lowest common denominator of pay, benefits, and working standards is a prescription for disaster. It would open the door to allowing other companies to suck business away from American-flag airlines and the jobs of hardworking Americans with it.
“For 70 years U.S.-flag shipping companies have dealt with the race-to-the-bottom mentality orchestrated by FOC shippers. We have seen the low standards forced upon uninformed foreign crewmembers. We have worked with the International Transport Worker’s Federation around the world to force unscrupulous ship owners and charterers to pay the meager salaries earned by these mariners. And we have witnessed trade between the U.S. and other nations steadily increase, while the U.S.- flag share of this cargo has precipitously decreased.”
Sacco resolved, “While the International Association of Machinists and Communications Workers of America are directly involved in this fight, several other MTD affiliates are also affected. We stand by our affiliates who state the NAI application violates the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement, particularly with regard to labor standards.”