Two pilot’s unions are pushing back against a federal mandate to require workers at companies with over 100 employees to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing. Both the Allied Pilots Association and Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association are asking for a waiver, warning it could create problems during the holiday season.
Unions representing pilots at two major U.S. carriers are challenging president Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees, claiming removing those who have not taken the shot could create major problems during the holiday season. The Allied Pilots Association (APA) and Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Association (SWAPA) are lobbying for exemptions to the vaccine requirements.
AT LEAST 4,000 PILOTS WITH TEXAS-BASED AIRLINES UNVACCINATED
According to the unions, numerous aviators have not decided to get any of the COVID-19 vaccines. ABC News reports 30 percent of APA’s organized pilots – or 4,200 American Airlines workers – are not inoculated against the novel Coronavirus. Representatives for SWAPA have not disclosed how many of their members have not taken the vaccine. Both American and Southwest are based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area of Texas.
Under the Biden administration’s mandate, employees of any company over 100 employees must get vaccinated or be subjected to weekly testing. However, in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration and other government officials obtained by Politico, the APA says many pilots do not want to get vaccinated over concerns about “unique issues” with the shots.
“Some of APA’s members are unable to undergo vaccination for documented medical reasons, while others are reluctant to get vaccinated based upon concerns about the potential for career-ending side effects,” the APA letter reads. “All of those members are still able to perform their duties as professional pilots. To force those pilots out of their positions, rather than offering viable alternatives will have adverse consequences upon their families and the airline industry as a whole.”
SWAPA agrees with the concerns risen by the APA. In an e-mail to government officials seen by Politico, the union claims “it is each pilot’s right to choose whether or not to get the vaccine.” If the inoculation mandate moves forward, both unions say it could create major problems for the workforce heading into the busiest aviation season of the year.
“We are also concerned that the Executive Order’s anticipated 60-day implementation period for mandatory vaccinations could result in labor shortages and create serious operational problems for American Airlines and its peers,” the APA letter reads. “Airlines generate a substantial portion of their annual revenue during the holiday period, with a great many travelers depending on us to get them to their destinations. Our nation’s airlines, and the traveling public, cannot afford significant service disruptions due to labor shortages.”
DEBATE CONTINUES AS AIRLINES SPLIT ON MANDATORY VACCINATIONS
The move by the unions comes as airlines are taking different approaches to vaccination requirements. Delta Air Lines will add an health insurance premium surcharge for unvaccinated employees, while American is offering numerous incentives to encourage more workers to take the shot.