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Leadership Update: Vaccine Mandate

Leadership Update: Vaccine Mandate

October 05, 2021

SWAPA was notified today of SWA's plan to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all employees.

The Company has been pressured by the federal government to enact a mandate for all employees by December 8. In order to maintain its status as a federal contractor (and secure the revenue that goes along with it), Southwest Airlines has agreed to ignore our CBA and implement this mandate. They will require all employees to upload their COVID-19 vaccination records (or fill out a form requesting a disability, medical condition, or religious accommodation) by November 24. The Company has further stated that the presence of antibodies will not be a permissible exemption. Management has told SWAPA that beginning on November 29, they will begin the disciplinary process for Pilots not in compliance, which will ultimately result in termination. Given their repeated dismissal of our role as your representatives, it is unsurprising that this comes without consultation with the one labor group required to maintain a medical certificate, despite SWAPA's repeated attempts to reach an agreement with them for more than six months.

We want to be perfectly clear: SWAPA is not anti-vaccination, but we do believe that, under all circumstances, it is our role to represent the health and safety of our Pilots and bring their concerns to the Company. 

This announcement and lack of detail only fuels a growing divide that continues to erode the already strained relationship between Southwest Airlines and its Pilots’ Union. Prior to notifying SWAPA of this latest development, the Company has not made a good faith effort to discuss the many concerns that we have repeatedly raised in our communications, both publicly and to them privately. Despite current CDC guidelines, SWAPA has not had any meaningful conversation with management about levels of antibodies, natural immunity, or any other type of qualified exemptions. As a result, SWAPA will be filing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) this week to stop the Company from carrying forward this mandate. This TRO will be part of the federal lawsuit that SWAPA filed on August 30 in an attempt to stop the repeated violations of status quo during our formal Section 6 negotiations and it follows this demand letter SWAPA sent by President Casey Murray to Gary Kelly on October 3.

However, the TRO is also not the only front on which we will be attacking this unilateral decision. SWAPA Legal and your Government Affairs Committee (GAC) have been fighting for our Pilots' right to choose for months on various fronts. Your GAC has been talking to legislators on the Hill about our medicals and how they can be affected by this requirement. President Murray joined them during the week of September 20 in D.C., and along with the rest of the exec team, continued those meetings with numerous legislators last week as well. Additionally, SWAPA has been circulating a letter to members of Congress further stating our position.

The MAX RTS, ExTO, Hindsight, this summer’s operational meltdown, instructor manning, and nearly two years of COVID policies and procedures — all of these issues were approached as “management rights” and even when SWAPA objected, the Company attempted to take unilateral action rather than engage in conversation about our Pilots’ concerns. Your Union has been proactive and engaged internally and externally at many levels. We acknowledge the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, but we remain steadfast in our defense of our Pilots and the protection of their medical certificates. We will not sit idly by while the Company blatantly ignores our legal right to represent you.