On Tuesday, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines stated they would defy Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order this week barring any employer in the state from requiring COVID-19 vaccines. Both of the airlines are based in Texas.
Abbott’s order countered guidance issued by the Biden administration in September that stated:
The Guidance applies to all covered contractor employees and to all contractor or subcontractor workplace locations. While at a Federal workplace, covered contractor employees must also comply with any additional agency workplace safety requirements for that workplace. Because covered contractor employees working on a covered contract need to be fully vaccinated after December 8, 2021, covered contractor employees who work only at a Federal workplace need to be fully vaccinated by that date as well, unless legally entitled to an accommodation.
“Southwest said it ‘would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor.’ American said while it was reviewing Abbott’s executive order, ‘this does not change anything’ for the company,’” Reuters reported, adding, “Both carriers have asked U.S.-based employees to submit proof of vaccination by Nov. 24.”
On October 4, Southwest Airlines stated that it had “completed a thorough review of President Biden’s COVID Action Plan and determined that the carrier’s contracts with the U.S. government require full compliance with the federal vaccination directive. Employees of Southwest Airlines must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or be approved for a religious, medical, or disability accommodation, by Dec. 8, 2021, to continue employment with the airline.”
Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines chairman and CEO, stated at the time, “Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive. 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.”
On Monday, Abbott, who had already banned vaccine mandates from governmental entities, went further than that, issuing an executive order entirely banning vaccine mandates in the state by employers, including private employers. He wrote:
No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19. I hereby suspend all relevant statutes to the extent necessary to enforce this prohibition.
In his preamble to that declaration, Abbott noted that he had issued a number of executive orders “aimed at protecting the health and safety of Texans, ensuring uniformity across Texas, and achieving the least restrictive means of combatting the evolving threat to public health” and that “COVID-19 vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans.”
He also pointed out that he had previously issued executive orders to bar “governmental entities and certain others from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates or requiring vaccine passports,” but in “yet another instance of federal overreach, the Biden Administration is now bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, causing workplace disruptions.”
He concluded by stating, “This executive order shall remain in effect and in full force unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor. This executive order may also be amended by proclamation of the governor.”
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