Why would American hotel workers, electricians, teachers, construction workers and a host of transportation workers unite against a foreign airline’s attempt to expand service to the U.S.? The answer: This particular airline is using the same race-to-the bottom tactics deployed by global corporations that have left a bad taste in the mouth of just about every American who works hard for a living.
The scheme by Norwegian Air International (NAI), to grow its transatlantic operations in violation of international obligations and contrary to U.S. law, has triggered a backlash from more than 20 unions representing millions of workers across the country. On April 1, this broad coalition called on U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to reject NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit now pending before the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The controversy stems from NAI’s effort to register its aircraft in Ireland and hire Thailand-based flight crews through a Singaporean company so that it can scour the globe for the cheapest labor it can find and exploit. NAI may have thought it could slip under the radar, but the outcry against the airline’s Walmart-style strategy underscores a new determination in our movement to unify in the face of powerful business forces pressuring governments to do their bidding, The letter to Secretary Foxx pulls no punches in laying out why unions have coalesced against NAI’s expansion plans:
“As the representatives of unions that represent workers in several sectors of our economy we have seen first-hand the effects of un-checked globalization on the American workforce. Too often, poorly conceived and badly enforced free trade agreements have led to the offshoring of U.S. jobs. That is why U.S. industries that previously formed the backbone of our economy have seen dramatic job losses that have coincided with the erosion of the middle class.”
The signatories to the letter understand that while airline employees are the immediate target of Norwegian’s low-road ploy, workers across the breadth of the American and global economy face the same threat. By standing up to this airline scheme, the labor movement is sending a loud and clear message: with too many middle class jobs vanishing we will do battle with business schemes designed to destroy them.