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Southwest CEO blames Biden EO for implementing mandate he claims not to support. But does it even exist?

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The CEO of Southwest Airlines says he doesn’t back a COVID-19 mandate because he doesn’t believe corporations should implement such requirements but has nevertheless implemented one for his company because he says he is obligated to do so following an executive order from President Joe Biden.

“I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate. I’m not in favor of that, never have been,” Gary Kelly told CNBC Tuesday. “But the executive order from President Biden mandates that all federal employees — and then all federal contractors, which covers all the major airlines — have to have a [vaccine mandate] in place by Dec. 8.

“So we’re working through that,” he added.

Southwest announced its mandate last week.

According to Aviation Week, U.S. airlines are indeed considered to be federal contractors, in part because they are subject to be called into government service in times of crisis and because of other services provided to the government.

Biden announced his order for federal contractors on Sept. 9, the same day he announced a similar mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, though there is a great deal of confusion over the latter.

In a piece for The Federalist last week, executive editor Joy Pullmann noted that despite Biden’s order, there has been no actual movement by the federal bureaucracy to act on it.

For instance, Biden said that his order would be implemented through the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but as Pullmann notes, there has yet to be any rule-making activity related to the order, meaning that it’s not official — yet.

“Yes, we’ve heard all about Joe Biden’s alleged vaccine mandate for private companies employing 100 or more people. It was all over the news even before he announced it on September 9. His announcement has jeopardized the employment of millions of Americans and increased worker shortages in critical domains such as health care,” she began.

“There’s only one problem. It’s all a mirage. Biden’s so-called vaccine mandate doesn’t exist — at least, not yet. So far, all we have is his press conference and other such made-for-media huff-puffing. No such rule even claiming to be legally binding has been issued yet,” she added.

Pullmann went on to say that the nearly two dozen Republican attorneys general who vowed to oppose the mandate in court have yet to file any cases, because “there is no mandate to haul into court” (though Arizona AG Mark Brnovich announced within days of Biden’s order his state had filed a suit).

“According to several sources, so far it appears no such mandate has been sent to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs yet for approval. The White House, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Department of Labor haven’t released any official guidance for the alleged mandate. There is no executive order. There’s nothing but press statements,” Pullmann wrote.

As for Southwest, the airline canceled more than 1,000 flights over the weekend ostensibly due to weather and other issues flying into Florida.

“It was a very difficult weekend for many of you, and I’ve seen speculation on the reasoning,” Kelly told employees on Monday following the mass cancellations. “The fact is the Florida weather on Friday and unexpected ATC issues on Friday night resulted in delays and cancellations across our network, and it just got us behind.”

But as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson reported Monday evening, the real reason had more to do with a “sick out” — Southwest pilots not reporting for duty — over opposition to the vaccine mandate (Southwest pilots have filed suit over the mandate).

“We’ve spoken to several people with direct knowledge of what actually did happen. We can tell you that the shutdown of Southwest Airlines over the weekend was a direct consequence – it was a reaction to – Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates,” he told his viewers.

“So this weekend in protest, a large number of southwest pilots called out sick and they effectively shut down their airline. And many of them, you should know, admire the company they work for. They love Southwest Airlines, but they felt they had no choice but to do this. Nobody was standing up for them, not the United States Congress, which, by the way, has exempted itself from vaccine mandates, not even their labor union, which exists and is paid to defend them. But they’re not,” he continued, adding that a large number of air traffic controllers “apparently reached the very same conclusion.”

Jon Dougherty

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