Southwest Airlines announces employee vaccine mandate

·1 min read

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced this week that all 60,000 employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive an exemption by Nov. 24.

Why it matters: The airline and health care industries account for hundreds of thousands of local jobs. Compliance numbers show that workers are choosing their jobs over their vaccine concerns.

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If the airlines don't abide by the federal government's requirement to have all employees vaccinated by Dec. 8, they risk losing lucrative contracts.

  • Southwest joins Fort Worth-based American Airlines, which announced last week that it would also require vaccines or exemptions for all 100,000 employees.

  • Baylor Scott & White Health, which instituted a company-wide mandate earlier this year, says 98% of its more than 40,000 employees have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Children's Health and Cook Children's both reported that 99% of their combined 15,000 employees have received vaccines.

What they're saying: "Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination directive," Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement. "I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all."

  • In company memos, Kelly told employees that he thinks they should be able to choose for themselves whether to get vaccinated but also said the government has the right to enforce mandates, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The other side: The union representing Southwest's pilot says the airline's mandate violates its collective bargaining agreement and that the 60-day timeline for vaccination might interfere with holiday travel.

The bottom line: Get used to this new normal. More and more jobs are requiring vaccination.

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