Southwest Airlines appears to have listened to its employees and might not comply with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate. This defiance is sure to elicit wailing and gnashing of teeth from the tyrannical crowd, but the company seems determined to push back against the authoritarian in the White House.
Southwest Tells Biden to Pound Sand
On Oct. 19, CNBC reported that “Southwest Airlines has scrapped a plan to put unvaccinated employees who have applied for but haven’t received a religious or medical exemption on unpaid leave as of a federal deadline in December.”
Like many large airlines, Southwest is a federal contractor, which means it must abide by the White House’s directives on vaccines. “Rules for federal contractors are stricter than those expected for large companies,” according to CNBC. This is because large companies are allowed to provide weekly COVID testing for employees who wish to remain unvaccinated.
Southwest attempted to assuage its employees’ concerns over job security and tried to persuade them to apply for exemptions if they cannot take the vax for medical or religious reasons. However, the company’s leadership informed workers on Oct. 15 that if their requests for exemptions have not been approved by Dec. 8, they would be allowed to continue working while following social-distancing and mask requirements. It also stated that those whose exemptions were rejected would be able to keep working “as we coordinate with them on meeting the requirements (vaccine or valid accommodation).”
This was a change in the initial policy, which stated that unvaccinated employees without exemptions would be placed on unpaid leave. This is what prompted hundreds of Southwest employees to stage a protest outside the company’s headquarters in Dallas on Oct. 18. Fox4 reported:
“Dozens of flight attendants, pilots and many other Southwest employees from different departments showed up to protest outside the airline’s Dallas headquarters Monday morning over the vaccine mandate. They say the airline is violating their personal rights.”
Will Other Companies Join the Revolt?
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian recently announced that his company would not be complying with the mandate, referring to it as “divisive.” He pointed out that more than 90% of Delta’s staff had taken the jab and believes it will climb by five more percentage points within the next month.
“The reason the mandate was put in by the president, I believe, was because they wanted to make sure companies had a plan to get their employees vaccinated,” he explained. “A month before the president came out with the mandate, we had already announced our plan to get all of our people vaccinated. And the good news is the plan is working.”
Most other airlines appear to be on board with the president’s mandate. United, for example, had already put its own vaccine mandate in place in August, before Biden issued the new rules. “More than 96% of its staff is vaccinated,” according to CNBC. But some employees filed a lawsuit against the company, and a federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the company from imposing its rules.
It is not yet clear whether other large companies — like Delta and Southwest — will refuse to follow Biden’s measures regarding vaccines. However, with two prominent enterprises taking a stand to protect the rights of their employees, it is possible that the situation is arriving at a tipping point and others will follow.
~ Read more from Jeff Charles.