After December 8, employees will have to show proof of vaccination or provide a religious or medical exemption. The mandate follows President Joe Biden’s policy requiring millions of federal contractors to be vaccinated by December 8.
“The White House said on Friday that millions of federal contractors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 and that the administration will add clauses to future government contracts mandating inoculations,” Reuters reported in September.
In a statement announcing the measure, Boeing said employee exemptions will only be granted “based on a disability or sincerely held religious belief,” adding the company will “continue to carefully monitor guidance from public health agencies, and requirements from federal, state and local governments to inform our COVID-19 policies.”
“Airlines American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines are also federal contractors and recently told their staff that they too would comply with the order and that all employees must be vaccinated or be approved by the airline for an exemption,” noted CNBC.
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The vaccine mandate in the airline industry stirred controversy this past weekend when thousands of Southwest Airlines flights were canceled over what some in the media speculated to have stemmed from a covert union strike. The cancelations occurred just two days after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) filed a lawsuit asking that a federal judge “temporarily block the company from carrying out federally mandated coronavirus vaccinations until an existing lawsuit over alleged U.S. labor law violations is resolved,” according to Bloomberg.
“The new vaccine mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021,” the legal filing said. “Southwest Airlines’ additional new and unilateral modification of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement is in clear violation of the RLA.”
Despite the timing of the cancelations, SWAPA leaders told CNBC pilots were not participating in a massive strike, blaming the airline’s “poor planning.”
“We can say with confidence that our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions,” SWAPA said.
“Our Pilots will continue to overcome SWA management’s poor planning, as well as any external operational challenges, and remain the most productive Pilots in the world,” the union added.
On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines CEO said that he never wanted to institute a vaccine mandate for his employees until President Biden issued his order for federal contractors.
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 said in an interview on 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.”
In August, prior to the president’s order, both United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines announced a vaccine mandate for all staff and pilots. According to CNBC, United now has “more than 96% of its 67,000 U.S. employees have shared proof of vaccination after its late September deadline.”