AFA Alaska Government Affairs
Post-election and a Lame Duck Congress
The November mid-term elections saw a major shift in the balance of power in Congress with Republicans now in control of the Senate and the House.
AFA friend and advocate AK Sen. Mark Begich lost his senate seat to Republican Dan Sullivan. Senator Begich who sponsored both our knives and cellphone bills, worked closely with our ANC committee on his re-election campaign. I would like to give special recognition to ANC GA Chair Jan Bottini Strait for her tireless commitment to this election. Jan led and inspired her ANC Flight Attendant who talked to fellow Flight Attendants, wrote postcards, made phone calls and knocked on doors. ANC committee member Thresia Raynor, released to AFL-CIO and the Alaska State Fed, is to be recognized for her work reaching out to union members and their families to get labor-friendly candidates elected in Alaska.
With a Republican platform that doesn’t bode well for unions and collective bargaining rights, it remains to be seen how this will be played out in the next two years. Incoming Republican Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has already made it known that he would like to make changes to the NLRB.
Congress is in a lame duck session and with just a few days left before members leave on vacation it looks like little will get done—except the looming government funding bill which much be resolved before the end of the year, the worst case scenario being a government shutdown.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid will attempt to keep the senators there well in to December to finish up executive branch appointments before Republicans take over. Recently Pres. Obama nominee Lauren McFarren was confirmed to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board). McFarren completes the 5 member NLRB, now 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans.
As the 114th Congress approaches, the AFA Legislative Policy Committee has set about prioritizing issues. AFA GA Director Stephen Schembs has already met with members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about the upcoming FAA Reauthorization. The AFA Policy Committee has keyed in on four areas for consideration:
- International Issues—codify that Dept. of State and DOT continue to negotiate “air transport services”
- Flight crew fatigue/rest requirements
- Human trafficking/assault reporting
- Full scale emergency evacuation tests
AFA. ALPA, TWU, and the TTD (AFL-CIO) and other organizations, including representatives from 3 major airlines, met in Washington DC for a one day “Fly-In” on Nov. 19 to take the message to Congress to “Deny NAI.” SEA Committee member Krystal Cook and I were among the 35 AFA members who visited members of Congress, asking them to sign on to the Collins-Sires Dear Colleague letter addressed to DOT Sec. Anthony Fox, encouraging him to reject Norwegian Air International’s application. By the end of the week over 180 House members had signed on to the letter. AFA flight attendants made calls to all 435 members of the House, started a social media campaign on “Twitter” and talked to dozens of House and Senate members and their staff. Hopes on the senate side is that language will be included in the omnibus bill that would essentially block NAI from moving forward:
1 SEC. 415. (a) None of the funds made available by
2 this Act may be used to approve a new foreign air carrier
3 permit under sections 41301 through 41305 of title 49,
4 United States Code, or exemption application under sec-
5 tion 40109 of that title of an air carrier already holding
6 an air operators certificate issued by a country that is
7 party to the U.S.–E.U.–Iceland–Norway Air Transport
8 Agreement where such approval would contravene United
9 States law or Article 17 bis of the U.S.–E.U.–Iceland–
10 Norway Air Transport Agreement.
11 (b) Nothing in this section shall prohibit, restrict or
12 otherwise preclude the Secretary of Transportation from
13 granting a foreign air carrier permit or an exemption to
14 such an air carrier where such authorization is consistent
15 with the U.S.-E.U.-Iceland-Norway Air Transport Agree-
16 ment and United States law.
More on NAI:
The Norwegian Shell Game
AFA has been working with other aviation unions to block a scheme to outsource our jobs – #DenyNAI. If the Department of Transportation (DOT) approves Norwegian Air International’s application for a Foreign Air Carrier permit, it will set a dangerous precedent. The air carrier plans to fly to the US under an Irish certificate with Pilots hired in Singapore and Flight Attendants in the United States working under a constantly renewed contract that keeps base pay below $18,000 each year.
AFA leaders, activists and members have taken part in our coordinated #DenyNAI campaign. This is a complicated issue because of the shell companies involved and multi-faceted campaign we are waging against them. But the issue is very clear – if we allow this game to go unchecked, our jobs, collective bargaining rights and safety regulations could evaporate with a flags of convenience model for aviation.
What is Social Dumping?
Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) is the third largest “ultra” low cost European carrier and operates several companies flying under the ‘Norwegian’ brand: NAS, Norwegian Long Haul (NLH)and Norwegian Air International (NAI).
NAS, headquartered in Oslo, Norway, has a fleet of 737 aircraft which primarily fly throughout Scandinavia and the European Union. NAS has an Air Operating Certificate (AOC) issued by the Norwegian government. NAS workers are represented by the Norwegian labor union, Parat, and thus have a seniority list and other negotiated benefits, in addition to strong job protections under Norwegian law. Their employer pays taxes to the government of Norway which administers extensive social protections including health care, paid parental leave, and other including benefits that make up a strong social safety net.
The company’s long-haul flying is done by NLH and NAI utilizing 787 aircraft from Scandinavia and the EU to Asia and the United States.
NLH has a Norwegian AOC but, having obtained an exemption from the Norwegian government, registers its aircraft in Ireland. This enables the company to hire foreign workers without Norwegian work permits. NLH has route authority to fly to the US under the US/Norwegian Air Transport Agreement (ATA), an open skies agreement.
On the other hand, NAI is an Irish company with an Irish AOC and aircraft registered in Ireland. The Norwegian government has no oversight over NAI, and so the company is not bound by the US/Norwegian ATA. Further, NAI does not employ flight crews: It uses a staffing company to hire and train crewmembers. NAI has hired Asian and US crews to lower their operational cost below what they would have to pay if they were to continue to operate under the Norwegian AOC. NAI currently operates flights from Scandinavia and the EU to Asia, with sights set on providing service to the US under a provision in the broader EU/US Open Skies Agreement.
Norwegian Bait and Switch
The NAI application to fly to the US is under review by the USDOT and NAI has also applied for exemption authority. The exemption would allow NAI to initiate service to the US without receiving a foreign air carrier permit. Instead of flying under the legitimate NLH structure, the parent company would use NAI to operate Irish-certified flights to the US. If the DOT approves the NAI application, the legitimate NLH will likely be merged under the Irish AOC and cease to exist. The provisions of the US-Norwegian ATA already accommodate all of the proposed NAI route structure, which could be operated with aircraft that is registered in Norway, abiding by Norwegian law.
AFA opposed the NAI application to fly the US on the basis that the Norwegian model, creating a new Irish company for the purpose of flying to the US as part the EU/US open skies agreement, violates Article 17 bis EU/US Open Skies Treaty. AFA has been working closely with allies such as ALPA, ITF/ETF, Parat, and TTD to put pressure on the US government urging them to deny the NAI application.
NAI was created to circumvent Norwegian labor laws and therefore amounts to social dumping of corporate responsibility.
If DOT allows NAI to set up a “flags of convenience” business model it will put downward pressure on US carriers to lower labor costs on transatlantic operations in order to compete with this new “ultra” low cost carrier model.
This opens the floodgates to duplicating the model throughout aviation as competition “requires” regulatory change or exemption.
Our Efforts to Fight Back
Since Fall 2013, AFA has also continued to work with the Senate and members of the House of Representatives to send letters to Secretary Foxx and the White House urging them to ensure the terms of the EU/U.S. treaty are upheld. AFA has worked with labor allies to encourage our members to sign a petition to the Obama Administration urging them to protect the US aviation industry and US aviation jobs.
In our continuing campaign, AFA has:
- Met with Norwegian officials and other International aviation unions to join forces to prevent the flags of convenience business model from infiltrating our industry (February 2014.)
- Submitted comment to the DOT rulemaking urging them to reject the NAI applications (February 2014).
- Urged AFA members to sign the White House petition (February 2014).
- Introduced a resolution at ITF meeting calling on European Commission and the US DOT hold NAI to the labor provisions of the EU/US Open Skies Agreement (May 2014)
- Worked quickly through our Government Affairs activists to achieve the U.S. House of Representatives unanimous vote for the DeFazio/Westmoreland Amendment to H.R. 4745, the FY 2015 Transportation Appropriations bill (June 2014). The amendment requires DOT to follow U.S. law and labor protection provisions outlined in the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement when considering an application for a foreign air carrier permit.
- Met with DOT Secretary Foxx and called attention to our filed comments (June 2014).
In July 2014, a US delegation from the Department of State and the Department of Transportation met with the European Commission. The EU requested the meeting to attempt to persuade the US DOT to approve the NAI application, or to tend an exemption. Meeting notice was posted to the U.S. federal register.
In August 2014, AFA supported ITF/ETF efforts to get EU member states to weigh in with the European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility and Transportation, and submitted comments.
The DOT must rule on the exemption application by the end of August 2014. In the event the US government grants an exemption, we will keep up our fight to block the NAI foreign air carrier permit application and work to ensure that our jobs and Flight Attendant profession are not further eroded by any decision. We won’t back down – and until or unless the application is approved or an exemption given, we will work to defeat the outsourcing scheme outright.
(Temporary exemption was not granted in August}
MEC Government Affairs Chairperson