One day after employees carried out a peaceful protest outside Southwest Airlines headquarters in Dallas, Texas, the company is announcing that it will not be putting employees who are seeking exemptions to vaccine mandates on unpaid leave. The company’s decision was announced on Tuesday.
“The employee will continue to work, while following all COVID mask and distancing guidelines applicable to their position, until the accommodation has been processed,” according to an internal note sent to employees that was obtained by Fox Business.
“Earlier this month, Southwest became the latest airline to require its employees to get inoculated by Dec. 8, although it still gave employees the option to apply for medical or religious exemptions,” the report said.
“The Dallas-based carrier said it began mandating vaccines for its 54,000 employees in order to comply with new rules from the Biden administration requiring companies with federal contracts to have a fully vaccinated staff,” the report added.
Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly earlier said in an interview on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that employees would not be terminated over the company’s vaccine mandate, despite earlier company correspondence to the contrary.
“We are not going to fire any employees over this,” Kelly said.
Recently, ‘fact checkers’ claimed that Southwest employees had not been protesting against the company’s vaccine mandate and there was no ‘sick out’ that caused major flight disruption earlier in October.
“Southwest Airlines’ flight cancellations fueled partisan claims over the weekend that transportation workers were protesting COVID-19 vaccine requirements and causing the cancellations,” FactCheck.org claimed. “But there’s no evidence that workers staged protests. The Federal Aviation Administration, the airline and labor unions have all cited other reasons.”
But there was evidence all along, such as the reported “sick out” and accompanying major flight service disruption occurring within 48 hours of a lawsuit filed by the Southwest Pilots Association against Southwest, which specifically mentioned the vaccine mandate.
“Southwest Airlines Co. pilots asked a court to temporarily block the company from carrying out federally mandated coronavirus vaccinations until an existing lawsuit over alleged U.S. labor law violations is resolved,” Bloomberg reported on October 8.
“The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s filing Friday also asked for an immediate hearing on the request before a federal court in Dallas, claiming the carrier has continued to take unilateral actions that violate terms of the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline-union relations,” the report continued. “Those steps include the Covid-19 vaccination requirement.”
The Southwest flights started to be cancelled one day later on Saturday, and nearly 2,000 flight were delayed. Southwest denied the “sick out” was at the heart of the operational problems.
“We can say with confidence that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions,” Southwest sted in a press release. The airline blamed “poor planning” and “external operational challenges” for the delays.
On Tuesday morning, however, the issues appeared to be resolved and Southwest Airlines ceased leading the industry in cancellations and delays. There wasn’t an official announcement over a “sick out,” because it would be considered an illegal labor practice under the union’s contract.
Texas’ governor recently issued an executive order that vaccine mandates will not be enforced in the State of Texas. American Airlines is another company in Texas that is struggling with employees who are seeking exemptions to the vaccine mandate.
American Airlines in early September told employees that they “must submit proof of full vaccination as soon as possible – no later than Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021.”
“If you have not submitted proof of vaccination by Nov 24, we will be in touch to begin the next steps. To be clear, if you fail to comply with the requirement, the result will be termination from the company,” the memo threatened.
That announcement spurred its own protest outside American Airlines headquarters early in October.
“Hundreds of AA workers and allies protested outside the company’s Fort Worth, Texas headquarters on Thursday,” Newsweek reported. “The protesters told The Dallas Morning News that they are skeptical of the vaccines’ effectiveness and their unreported side effects.”
According to the online publication Paddle Your Own Kanoo, “the protestors were a mix of employees from across the airline including pilots, gate agents and ramp workers. Some wore their uniforms, while their numbers were swelled by friends and family who supported their right to reject the vaccine.”
A third airlines has also seen issues over vaccine mandates: United Airlines. Last week, a federal judge in Texas halted United Airlines’ vaccine mandate enforcement. The company had been putting employees who claim religious exemptions to forced vaccination on unpaid leave.
“A U.S. judge in Texas on Tuesday temporarily restrained United Airlines from placing any employee on unpaid leave who receive religious exemptions from the company for COVID-19 vaccinations until Oct. 26.,’ Reuters reported. “The Judge also temporarily restrained the airline from denying any late requests for religious or medical accommodations.”
The U.S. media continues to hide Americans’ objections to vaccine mandates, but the lawsuits and companies’ internal communications make it clear: The resistance to vaccine mandates are real and they are getting results.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.