American Airlines, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, is defying Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott over his COVID-19 policies.
Specifically, Abbott recently imposed an executive order banning mandates for COVID-19 vaccines by any “entity” in the state, which is in contrast to a recent announcement by the Biden administration that companies with 100 or more employees would be required to have their personnel vaccinated or frequently tested. The Biden administration is also requiring employees at federal contractors to be vaccinated, and American Airlines and Southwest Airlines (which is also Texas-based) have pointed to that requirement. The companies “said on Tuesday they would comply with U.S. President Joe Biden’s executive order to require that their employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 by a Dec. 8 deadline,” Reuters reports.
Abbott’s executive order reflects yet another front in the continual push by certain Republican leaders against policies to contain the spread of COVID-19. In Texas, for instance, Abbott has also fought the imposition of face mask mandates in schools, despite the fact that children under 12 can’t even get vaccinated against COVID-19 at all yet. An office within the federal Education Department has started a civil rights investigation into Texas on the basis of the possibility that Abbott’s policy against mask mandates impedes upon the civil rights of medically vulnerable students who can’t safely attend school without mask-wearing mandates in place.
Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines said that it “would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” while American Airlines added that Abbott’s executive order “does not change anything” for the company, pointedly explaining that they believe that the “federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws.”
United Airlines is the subject of a class action lawsuit over its attempts to impose vaccine requirements on its employees, with six employees of the airline “claiming that workers who sought exemptions from the vaccine mandate were subjected to intrusive inquiries about their medical conditions or religious beliefs, including a requirement that they obtain letters from pastors,” as reported by Reuters.
Asking for basic verification regarding a matter of medical importance certainly doesn’t sound “intrusive.” Those opposing vaccine mandates seem willfully ignorant of the fact that lives hang in the balance — as President Joe Biden himself put it recently, this isn’t a “game.” Remaining un-vaccinated could allow the virus to spread further, potentially affecting vulnerable people, who could die. In the meantime, United Airlines has been blocked by the court “until Oct. 26 from placing on unpaid leave any employee who receives religious or medical exemptions from the company for COVID-19 vaccinations,” Reuters explains.