Last updated: 03:42 PM ET, Sat May 14 2016

Bernie Sanders Weighs In On Norwegian Air Controversy

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | May 14, 2016

Bernie Sanders Weighs In On Norwegian Air Controversy

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Norwegian Air International’s plan to offer low-fare trans-Atlantic service to the U.S., saying it would open the door to the “flag of convenience model that decimated U.S. shipping.”

“Norwegian Air International’s attempt to undermine international labor laws by outsourcing cheap labor from Thailand and other low-wage countries is unacceptable,” Sanders said in a statement. “The U.S. Department of Transportation should not be rewarding this airline with a foreign air carrier permit that would allow it to undercut the wages and benefits of airline workers throughout this country.”

The DOT last month granted temporary approval to NAI to operate its new shuttle service from Ireland to the U.S., but the controversy – brewing since 2013 – is not over. U.S. airlines and numerous labor unions have fought the application, saying Norwegian is skirting tough labor laws in its native Norway by setting up shop in Dublin.

Opponents also say the airline would be able to hire contract workers, including pilots, for far less.

Norwegian has rejected that claim, saying it has already hired more than 400 U.S.-based crew members.

“Granting such a permit would be a direct violation of the strong labor provisions included in the U.S./E.U. Open Skies Agreement,” Sanders said. “Moreover, it would set a dangerous precedent that threatens the jobs of hundreds of thousands of flight attendants, mechanics, pilots and other airline workers in our country and in Europe.”

Several hundred airline workers picketed in front of the White House on Thursday, May 12, demanding the DOT reverse its decision. The DOT will make a final decision after the May 23 end to the public comment period.

“We must do everything we can to prevent a global race to the bottom in the airline industry,” Sanders said. “The U.S. Department of Transportation should reverse its tentative decision to approve this permit. We should be working to expand, not cut, good paying jobs across both the United States and the European Union. These labor standards were meant to benefit workers in the U.S. and the E.U, not weaken them.”

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