Boeing: Union Is Blocking Sales Growth

Plane manufacturer blames machinists for delaying expansion of Norwegian airline

777X Wing Center

The Boeing 777X Composite Wing Center in Everett, Wash / AP

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Boeing is blaming a major union for blocking the expansion of a Norwegian airline into the United States, a move the company says would hurt workers.

America’s largest airplane manufacturer said organized labor is pressuring Congress to prevent Norwegian Air International, a low-cost airline, from increasing routes into the United States. Boeing supplies the airline, which flies customers across the Atlantic Ocean for less than $500, with its planes.

The delay in approving new routes "may cost Commercial Airplanes new orders," the company said in a statement posted to WeAreBoeingSC.com. The company called on the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which represents thousands of Boeing workers, to stop its campaign against the airline.

"It’s disappointing that IAM leadership and congressional members are hurting a key customer and undermining Boeing jobs," company spokesman Bill McSherry said in a statement. "By falling into the D.C. political-game trap, they are putting customers’ success and jobs on the line, and all employees ought to be concerned."

The airline, which operates with Boeing planes, came under fire for establishing its headquarters in Ireland to dodge high tax bills in Norway. IAM "applauded" the movement to keep the airline out of America.

"Any airline that registers its aircraft in foreign countries with lax safety and security standards and ‘rents’ its cabin crews from countries with no labor laws to lower costs shouldn’t be welcome in the United States," IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja said in April. "Make no mistake: NAI’s scheme to gain entry into the U.S. aviation market will unleash downward pressure on the wages, benefits, and working conditions of airline workers here in the United States and cause airline workers to lose their jobs. That is unacceptable."

The union is now rallying support from its partner organizations. IAM belongs to the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor group. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka criticized Boeing for its "shameful attack" on the Machinists Union.

"If NAI’s application is approved, the carrier will gain an unfair competitive advantage over airlines that play by the rules—most of which are significant and longstanding Boeing customers," Trumka said in a release. "Boeing’s attack on the IAM is especially outrageous given that the union has led the way in advocating for policies that have expanded Boeing’s reach into new markets and created jobs."

Boeing said the union could be undermining its own members. NAI’s expansion in Europe has led to more plane orders. Its growth in transatlantic flights would mean new orders for its 787 Dreamliners, which sell for about $225 million, according to Boeing.

"Opposition could translate into undermining Boeing aerospace jobs—working against the union’s own labor force interests," the company said in its post.

Congress is currently considering a bill that would block the airline’s expansion.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.

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