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Texas-based Southwest, American Airlines will defy Gov. Abbott’s order to enforce Biden’s vax mandate

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Southwest and American Airlines announced on Tuesday they will defy Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning vaccine mandates, opting instead to comply with President Joe Biden’s push to have airline employees vaccinated by Dec. 8 – the president’s deadline for federal contractors.

Both airlines are based in Texas and are requiring employees to submit proof of vaccination by Nov. 24. However, Gov. Abbott issued an executive order on Monday that affects companies in the state.

“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” Abbott wrote in his order.

American and Southwest are falling back on the position that the federal mandate supersedes the state-issued ban.

“Federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” Southwest said in a statement.

While American Airlines said it was reviewing Abbott’s order, the airline stated that it believes “the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws, and this does not change anything for American.”

“As a result, the federal vaccine mandate requires that all of American’s U.S.-based team members and certain international crew members be vaccinated, without the provision of a regular testing alternative,” the airline reiterated from a previous statement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed Abbott’s actions as a political move, insisting the legality of the federal mandate was “unquestionable.”

“We’ve seen from economist after economist, and frankly, many business leaders who have already worked to implement mandates that implementing these mandates creates certainty and reduces the number of people who are out of work sick, and worse,” Psaki said. “That is good ultimately for businesses, it’s good for the economy.”

“Bottom line is we’re going to continue to implement the law, which the President of the United States has the ability, the authority — the legal authority to do, and we are going to continue to work to get more people vaccinated, to get out of this pandemic,” she added. “The President will use every lever at his disposal to do that.”

Whether you like it or not.

Biden has already been clear that thousands of Americans losing their jobs over non-compliance will not deter him from forcing the vaccine on the population, as he praised United Airlines after the company fired almost 600 employees for refusing to get vaccinated.

“Let’s be clear… when you see headlines and reports of mass firings and hundreds of people losing their jobs, look at the bigger story,” he said last week in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

“I’ve spoken with Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, who’s here today,” Biden said. “United went from 59 percent of their employees to 99 percent of their employees [being vaccinated] in less than two months after implementing the requirement.”

United became the first U.S. carrier to require vaccinations for all domestic employees in August, according to the Daily Mail.

“Six United employees have filed a class action in federal court in Texas claiming that workers who sought exemptions from the vaccine mandate were subjected to intrusive inquiries about their medical conditions or religious beliefs, including a requirement that they obtain letters from pastors,” the British tabloid reported.

The case is to be heard on Wednesday, with a restraining order issued preventing United from placing employees who receive religious or medical exemptions from the company for COVID-19 vaccinations on unpaid leave until October 26.

Chicago-based Boeing, which makes both commercial and military planes, said Tuesday that U.S. employees have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or have an approved religious or medical exemption by Dec. 8. The company has roughly 125,000 employees, with about 5,000 based in Texas.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Tuesday that he does not agree with vaccine mandates but his hand is being forced by 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,” Kelly told CNBC. “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.”

“If they can’t [get vaccinated], we’re urging them to seek an accommodation either for medical or religious reasons,” he added. “The objective here, obviously, is to improve health and safety, not for people to lose their jobs.”

A growing number of pilots are speaking out against the mandates, as seen Monday when Joshua Yoder, co-founder of U.S. Freedom Flyers, appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to warn that the nation may soon face a transportation and logistics nightmare if a large number of pilots refuse to comply.

“First of all, we have all the control, and the control comes from a simple word, and that is ‘no’,” the commercial pilot said. “We just don’t need to comply.”

The Allied Pilots Association, which represents 14,000 American Airlines pilots, said last week “mandatory vaccinations could result in labor shortages and create serious operational problems for American Airlines and its peers.”

Tom Tillison

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