Hoffa: When ‘Open Skies’ Means Unfair Advantage

Posted: April 15, 2015
Source: Teamster.org

By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, April 15, 2015

IBT President, Jim HoffaUnfair labor practices are once again hurting U.S. workers and threatening jobs here in Michigan and across America. This time, the threat is coming from overseas, as three airlines from the Middle East — Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates — are embracing shady financial practices and anti-worker policies to undercut U.S. companies.

These Persian Gulf region air carriers are distorting the market with unfair advantages, and hoping no one notices. U.S. airlines are accountable to their shareholders and operate as private businesses. They respond to pressures in the marketplace and must negotiate contracts with their unionized employees.

In contrast, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates are run as extensions of the countries they serve. In direct violation of the international Open Skies agreement, recent evidence shows the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are pumping billions of dollars into these companies through subsidies, supportive public policies and state-funded construction. These billions provide the airlines with an enormous benefit that upends the international aviation market and undermines global competition standards.

A recent report shows that these subsidies and unfair benefits have totaled $42 billion over the last decade alone. With that much government cash, no wonder these airlines are expanding! With no pressure to earn profits, provide a living wage or control costs, these state-funded enterprises jeopardize American businesses, threatening jobs and consumer choice in the process.

It’s as if a foreign government were manufacturing cars on the cheap in its own country and then selling them by the thousands in U.S. cities at below-market rates. That’s not competition — it’s a tactic straight out of the old monopolist playbook. It’s also one the U.S. government has rejected for decades.

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