United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: June 16, 2014
Type: Report


Norwegian Air International's application for a foreign air carrier permit currently pending with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is one of the biggest threats to our jobs.   Norwegian Air International (NAI),  a subsidiary of Norway-based Norwegian Air Shuttle, has been granted an Irish Air Operator's certificate and plans to operate flights from London to the United States.   NAI's choice of holding a certificate in Ireland while not operating any flights out of Ireland is similar to the "flags of convenience" business practice which effectively undermined the U.S. maritime industry.    If granted a foreign air carrier permit by the DOT, NAI plans to compete in the transatlantic market with budget flights to New York, Los Angeles and Ft Lauderdale. 

Norwegian Air International flight crew and cabin crew work under individual employment contracts that have wages and working conditions substantially inferior to those of Norwegian Air Shuttle Norway-based crew members.  NAI's pending application for a foreign air carrier permit threatens to undercut labor standards both in the U.S. and in Europe by circumventing worker protections, evading international labor laws and creating unfair competition for airlines covered under the U.S. – E.U Open Skies Agreement. 

If NAI is granted a foreign air carrier permit they will yield an enormous unfair economic advantage over U.S. airlines, making it more difficult for U.S. airlines and their employees to compete for long-haul international passengers' business.  The result threatens an already volatile industry and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports, as well as the aviation industry's contribution to our national security and to the U.S. economy. 

Our Grassroots Advocacy

Our Government Affairs Committees have been working on a number of fronts to increase awareness and to stop this threat.  Earlier this year, we made calls urging U.S. Senators to sign a letter to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, circulated by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), in opposition to NAI's request for the foreign air carrier permit. 

The letter was signed by the following  Senators:  Schatz (HI), Blunt (MO), Rockefeller (WV), Baldwin (WI), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Booker (NJ), Boxer (CA), Brown (OH), Cantwell(WA), Durbin (IL), Feinstein (CA), Franken (MN), Gillibrand (NY),  Harkin (IA), Hirono (HI), Klobuchar (MN),  Landrieu (LA), Levin (MI), Manchin (WV), Markey (MA), McCaskill (MO), Menendez (NJ), Merkley (OR),  Moran (KS), Murray (WA), Pryor (AR), Reed (RI), Schumer (NY), Shaheen (NH), Stabenow (MI), Tester (MT), Warner (VA), Warren (MA) and Whitehouse (RI). 

Last month 33 House Republicans signed a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx expressing deep concern that NAI's application for a foreign air carrier permit would create a competitive disadvantage for domestic carriers. 

Congress Takes Action

In an effort to ensure that U.S. airlines and their Flight Attendants are afforded a level playing field for transatlantic flying U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) introduced  an amendment to the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development 2015 Appropriations Act, H.R. 4745.  The amendment, which passed by a voice vote, late Monday, June 9, 2014, requires the Department of Transportation to follow the standards outlined in the Open Skies Agreement and sends a strong signal to the Administration that NAI's application is not supported by Congress. 

Prior to the vote on the DeFazio/Westmoreland amendment, Members of AFA-CWA's Government Affairs Committees were tasked with contacting Congressional offices urging support of the amendment. 

The Senate is expected to vote on their version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development 2015 Appropriation bill, S. 2438, the week of June 16.  A bipartisan amendment to deny NAI's application for a foreign air carrier permit has been introduced by Senators Dan Coats (R-IN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  An  AFA-CWA E-Activist has be sent encouraging Flight Attendants to call their two Senators to urge a Yes vote on the amendment.   This amendment will ensure that U.S. airlines are able to compete on a level playing field by making certain that federal transportation funds are not used to grant any foreign carrier that violates U.S. law or the U.S.-E.U. Open Skies Agreement access to U.S. markets.   

Protecting Our Jobs In the Global Arena

As we all know and have experienced first-hand the US airline industry is extremely volatile.  Changes to U.S. laws governing foreign ownership and cabotage and an uneven playing field in the international aviation market can directly impact employment and the careers of Flight Attendants.  A loss of flying opportunities affects all of us. 

It is critical that we continue to fight against policies and trade agreements that threaten our jobs and that we work to maintain current foreign ownership and control and cabotage restrictions in the United States.  We should not count on others to do so.   


Despite strong objections from aviation Unions, U.S. airlines and members of Congress,  U.S.  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will install automated passport kiosks at Abu Dhabi International Airport.  The airport became the first in about 30 years to be granted approval to pre-screen passengers and process customs declarations before travelers board flights to the U.S.


The disastrous Supreme Court decision in January 2010, Citizens United, opened the floodgates for special interest groups to spend virtually unlimited, undisclosed amounts of money in American elections.Since then, these groups have responded by pouring millions of dollars into campaigns to influence American voters.  Last month OpenSecrets.org reported that outside spending for the 2014 elections has already hit the $100 million mark! 
The United States Senate is now poised to take action to curb the effects of Citizens United.  Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) have introduced a constitutional amendment which grants Congress the authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns.   It also provides states with the authority to institute campaign spending limits at the state level.

This amendment got a big boost earlier this month when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in favor of this constitutional amendment.   The Majority Leader, who is scheduled as a guest on the CWA Union Hall Call June 19, testified that "Simply put, a constitutional amendment is what this nation needs to bring sanity back to political campaigns and restore American's confidence in their elected leaders." 

CWA, AFA-CWA and a group of progressive organizations are fighting back against the influence of corporate money on elections at the state, local and national levels. 


The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) creates federal workplace protections for gay and transgender people by making it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on their sexual or gender identity.  ENDA does not create any "special rights" but is based on the labor principle that workers should be judged on their abilities. 

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was passed by the Senate in November 2013, but the bill has stalled in the House.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told the Congressional LBGT Equality Caucus that there was "no way" ENDA would pass in the House and he has not brought the bill up for consideration. 

There continue to be 29 states that offer no employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 states with no protections based on gender identity.  ENDA would make it illegal to fire or not hire people for their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

In an effort to ban employment discrimination and provide some workplace protections President Obama announced that he will issue an Executive order prohibiting companies that contract with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  This is a positive step in creating fairer workplaces across the country but passage of ENDA is still vitally necessary.  This Executive Order may serve as a challenge to the House to get ENDA passed before the end of the 113th Congress.   


The California State Assembly passed a bill requiring large airports in the state to make accommodations for travelling mothers to express (pump) breast milk.  AB 1787 was approved on a 65-4 vote with no debate.  All those who voted "NO" on the bill were Republicans. 

Democrat Bonnie Lowenthal of Long Beach introduced the bill to help working mothers who travel.  The bill would require commercial airports in California with more than 1 million enplanements per year to provide a room in each terminal, behind airport security and separate from public restrooms, where women can express milk. 

The bill now moves to the California State Senate where the Transportation and Housing Committee will hold a hearing on June 17.  If the bill passes the State Senate and is signed into law by the Governor it would take effect in 2016. 


It is with mixed emotions that I say good bye to Vice Chair Mary Garton who decided not run for re-election.  Mary has been an integral part of the Committee, even before serving as Vice Chair and her hard work and dedication will be missed.  Understandably, she wants to spend more time with her two year old twins (and less time on the phone with Debbie! ).  Mary is not going away. She will still play an active role on the committee as an activist for Council 11 and she will be available as a resource for any questions.  I know that everyone on the MEC and the Committee wishes her the best.

We now welcome Claudia Fletcher, Council 11 Government Affairs Chair as the new MEC Government Affairs Committee Vice Chair, effective July 1, 2014.

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