Southwest Airlines has scrapped its plan to put unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave as long as they have applied for an exemption to the company’s rule. The reversal comes as thousands of employees have protested the plan at the company’s headquarters.
Last week, the airline experienced thousands of flight cancelations, claiming the problems had nothing to do with their vaccination deadline for employees.
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 starting by a federal deadline in December.
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are among the carriers that are federal contractors and subject to a Biden administration requirement that their employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 8 unless they are exempt for medical or religious reasons. Rules for federal contractors are stricter than those expected for large companies, which will allow for regular Covid testing as an alterative to a vaccination.
Executives at both carriers in recent days have tried to reassure employees about job security under the mandate, urging them to apply for exemptions if they can’t get vaccinated for medical or for a sincerely held religious belief. The airlines are expected to face more questions about the mandate when they report quarterly results Thursday morning. Pilots labor unions have sought to block the mandates or sought alternatives like regular testing.
Southwest’s senior vice president of operations and hospitality Steve Goldberg and Julie Weber, vice president and chief people officer wrote to staff on Friday that if employees’ requests for an exemption hasn’t been approved by Dec. 8, they could continue to work while following mask and distancing guidelines until the request has been reviewed.
Southwest Airlines employees have gathered in a developing protest against the company’s vaccine mandate. The organizing of the employee protest was reported earlier by Becker News and can be watched live below via RSBN.
A number of the Southwest employees said that they already have the Covid vaccine, but they are protesting against the vaccine mandate.
“I am not anti-vax, I am just anti-mandate, that’s all,” one mother of four interviewed by RSBN said.
The employee protest was also covered by Real America’s Voice, which showed dozens lined up all along Denton street holding signs and waving flags.
In one hilarious clip posted to Twitter, protestors chanted “Let’s Go Brandon” outside Southwest headquarters:
Hopefully, Southwest’s many troubles mandating the vaccine will show other companies that medical freedom is a priority in this country… and we Americans won’t compromise.