Machinists Picket White House to Demand Denial of Norwegian Airline’s Job-Slashing Scheme

IAM Transportation General Vice President Sito Pantoja speaks to a crowd of hundreds of airline workers at a rally to deny low-cost carrier Norwegian Air International (NAI) access to the U.S. aviation market.

Middle class jobs in the U.S. airline industry are in jeopardy, IAM Transportation General Vice President Sito Pantoja told Machinists Union members and hundreds of other airline workers at a rally outside the White House Thursday.

IAM Flight Attendants listen to speakers before marching in front of the White House to tell the Obama administration to protect U.S. aviation jobs.
A Norwegian flag ironically flies in front of the White House during a rally protesting NAI’s scheme to undercut U.S. aviation jobs. Nordic leaders are in Washington, DC for a state dinner.

Norwegian Air International (NAI), a low-cost subsidiary of Norwegian Air that operates out of Ireland in order to skirt Norwegian labor law, wants to use Bangkok-based flight crews employed through a Singaporean hiring agency to fly to and from the United States. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering NAI’s “flags of convenience” application, even though it would unleash downward pressure on U.S. airline workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions and eventually cause airline workers to lose their jobs.

READ: How a Norwegian Airline Could Steal Your Job

“These are our jobs!” Pantoja told the crowd, “but these are not regular jobs. These are the best paying jobs in aviation. The best skilled workers in aviation. The best safety professionals.”

The IAM and other AFL-CIO-affiliated unions contend a potential DOT decision granting NAI a permit to operate transatlantic flights would violate the 2010 U.S.-European Union Open Skies Agreement, which specifically forbids airlines from undermining labor standards in a member country. Stephen Cotton, head of the 4.5 million-member International Transport Worker Federation (ITF), commended the IAM for fighting to “stop this race to the bottom in the civil aviation industry.”

“When representatives of the Democrat or Republican Party put our jobs in jeopardy, we should put their jobs in jeopardy in November,” continued Pantoja.

Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind called NAI’s scheme “the biggest fairy tale I’ve heard in my life.”

“They want to create a subsidiary that’s going to hire short-term employees in Asia and cover them under individual employment contracts,” said Wytkind. “Never mind the fact that they are trampling on the rights of their own employees in Norway.”

The IAM supports a bipartisan bill in Congress that would prevent NAI from gaining an unfair competitive advantage by beating down U.S. workers’ rights, wages and benefits. U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) have sponsored H.R. 5090, which will reverse the DOT’s ill-conceived decision to potentially grant NAI access to U.S. skies.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to deny NAI entry into the U.S. aviation market by demanding that your U.S. Representative support H.R. 5090

“It’s about our values. It’s about fairness. It’s about safety. It’s about security,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “And for the labor movement, it’s about solidarity. We are all here together.”
As IAM Flight Attendants and hundreds of others chanted “Deny NAI,” a Norwegian flag flew on the White House fence. Nordic leaders are in Washington, DC for a state dinner with President Obama Friday night.

“If this is about flags of convenience, the only flag we’re going to need is the flag of the United States,” said Pantoja. “We don’t need any other flags.”