United Airlines recently announced that 99% of its workforce met the company’s guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinations. United workers either completed their vaccine doses or applied for exemptions.
For the remaining 1%, the end of their employment approaches. United is now preparing to terminate employees who remain unvaccinated. This translates to roughly 600 workers.
United Airlines Completes Its Vaccine Requirements
CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart issued a memo to all employees about the mandate. “This is a historic achievement for our airline and our employees as well as for the customers and communities we serve.
Our rationale for requiring the vaccine for all United’s U.S.-based employees was simple — to keep our people safe — and the truth is this: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated, and vaccine requirements work.”
Earlier on August 6, United announced that all US-based employees will have until September 27 to get vaccines. All 67,000 employees will need to show proof that they completed their vaccination.
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Or, they can apply for religious or medical exemptions within the period. At the time, United said that 90% of their pilots and 80% of flight attendants already completed their doses.
2,000 United Workers Applied For Exemptions
Fast forward to September 27, and the airline reported that around 2,000 workers applied for religious or medical exemptions.
Originally, management will place these employees on unpaid leave pending a lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate. However, United will push the date until the lawsuit gets a resolution.
However, 593 employees who chose not to get vaccines or apply for exemptions will now face termination proceedings. “For the less than 1% of people who decided to not get vaccinated, we’ll, unfortunately, begin the process of separation from the airline per our policy,” Kirby and Hart told employees.
Also in their announcement, Kirby and Hart thanked their “tens of thousands of employees who got their shot”. They added that they knew that ”for some, that decision was a reluctant one.
But there’s no doubt in our minds that some of you will have avoided a future hospital stay – or even death – because you got vaccinated.”
Other Airlines Also Mandated Vaccines
Other airlines such as Hawaiian and Frontier Airlines also implemented vaccine mandates. Proof of vaccines is now a condition for continued employment.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines declined to mandate vaccines. However, they charge unvaccinated workers a $200 monthly surcharge for health insurance.
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Later in August, President Joe Biden issued an executive order on COVID-19 vaccines. He required US companies with more than 100 workers to issue vaccine mandates.
Not everybody took the order sitting down. Pilot unions for American and Southwest Airlines requested exemptions for their pilots. AA’s Allied Pilots Association said that 30% of their pilots remain unvaccinated.
Implementing a mandate can potentially lead to a severe shortage of pilots. This is especially crucial coming into the holiday season.
Southwest Pilots Worry About Potential Side Effects
Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines took on a different approach. Instead of mandating vaccines, Southwest only encourages workers to get the vaccine.
Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, wants more clarification. In a letter, Murray said that the carrier’s current policy “clearly is not set in stone.”
In addition, Murray also said that pilots voiced concerns about potential side effects. These include long-term effects that show up after a few days or weeks. Consequently, pilots worry over potential losses of paid sick time.
They also worry about getting additional medical clearances before getting to fly. Earlier, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci talked about side effects. He said that most long-term effects come out within two months.
Do you support the United Airlines policy of terminating unvaccinated employees? How else should airline management deal with the unvaccinated?
Let us know what you think about vaccine mandates in companies. Share your thoughts below.