U.S. approves new airline over objections from N.J. Republican and his union allies
As reported by Jonathan D. Salant for NJ.com
Norwegian Air International received final Transportation Department approval Friday. It is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, a European-based low-cost carrier that last year flew 26 million passengers to 132 destinations, including John F. Kennedy Airport.
The decision “finally paves the way for greater competition, more flights and more jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Above all, it is a victory for millions of passengers who will benefit from more choice and lower fares,” the airline said in a statement.
The president of the AFL-CIO’s transportation trades department, Edward Wytkind, called on President Barack Obama to reverse the decision, and Congress to act if the White House didn’t.
“Given the disgust with our trade policies expressed loudly by American voters on Nov. 8, it is especially galling that the administration has ignored the wants of the American people in favor of a rogue, foreign airline,” Wytkind said.
Labor unions contended that Norwegian Air International’s business model violated workers’ protections embedded in the U.S.-European Union agreement that ended most barriers to trans-Atlantic flights.
They said Norwegian Air based its operations in Ireland because of that country’s less restrictive labor laws, and will use lower-paid crews based in Asia.
Labor’s efforts were backed by LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.), who received more money from unions for his 2016 campaign, $349,750, than any other House candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“This is a slap in the face to American workers,” LoBiondo said in a statement with two Democrats, Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Rick Larsen of Washington. DeFazio is the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee and LoBiondo is chairman and Larsen is ranking member of its aviation subcommittee.
The decision means “the U.S. will reward countries that break their commitments to protecting workers,” the lawmakers said.
LoBiondo’s AFL-CIO lifetime 54 percent score is tied for third place among Republicans with Rep. John Katko of New York. Only 4th District Rep. Chris Smith and Rep. Dan Donovan of New York scored higher.
The airline unions, which gave $5.4 million to federal candidates for the 2016 elections, have plenty of other allies on Capitol Hill.
In November 2014, 167 House members, including Smith and six other current New Jersey lawmakers, said Norwegian Air’s business model “would be detrimental to the future of the U.S. aviation industry, aviation workers, and our national economy.” In March 2014, 38 senators, including both Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) offered similar concerns.
United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airlines also asked the U.S. government to reject the application.