Air-Cargo Industry Seeking Vaccine Mandate Delay Until After Holidays

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
October 25, 2021 Updated: October 25, 2021

The trade association representing air-cargo companies such as UPS and FedEx is asking the Biden administration to postpone its vaccine requirement for federal contract workers.

A delay is necessary to avoid adding to supply-chain issues ahead of the holiday season, according to the association.

The request came in a letter, obtained by Politico and addressed to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Shalanda Young, that was sent by Cargo Airline Association President Stephen Alterman.

“We have significant concerns with the employer mandates announced on Sept. 9, 2021, and the ability of industry members to implement the required employee vaccinations by Dec. 8, 2021,” the letter reads.

The letter also stated that it would be “virtually impossible” to fully vaccinate the hundreds of thousands of temporary workers expected to be hired during the upcoming peak shipping season and asked the White House to postpone its Dec. 8 deadline for vaccines to the first half of 2022.

“That is not actually what we’ve seen at companies that have implemented these vaccine requirements that are not even part of federal law yet,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, when asked by Fox News on Oct. 22 whether vaccine mandates were more important than fixing the supply chain as fast as possible.

Psaki said chief executives at Southwest and American Airlines had made clear that there wouldn’t be a labor shortage as a result of vaccine requirements. The airlines are among companies that put mandates in place ahead of when President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring many private-sector workers to get vaccinated takes effect.

“As we work to implement these federal employee requirements, the first step is not firings. It’s actually education and counseling,” Psaki said. “So we don’t anticipate these disruptions.”

Psaki also pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fears surrounding it as an “enormous labor destructor” justifying companies that implement vaccine mandates.

On Oct. 12, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized the initial draft of the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) set to implement Biden’s order and sent it to the OMB for review. The finished rule is expected in the coming weeks.

In addition to labor challenges, the U.S. supply chain is being affected by bottlenecks at shipping ports and shortages of truck drivers.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced moves to a 24/7 service to address shipping backlogs. A list of businesses including Walmart, UPS, and FedEx have also made pledges to increase work during off-hours—as has the Union Pacific Railroad.

Biden plans to sign an executive order to temporarily lift weight limits so that trucks can carry more cargo, Psaki told reporters on Oct. 20.

At a CNN presidential town hall on Oct. 22, moderator Anderson Cooper asked Biden if he would consider using the National Guard to help drive trucks.

“Yes, absolutely, positively, I would do that,” Biden said.

Psaki said it was within the president’s power to activate the National Guard on a federal level or ask governors to enact the Guard at the state level, but “that is not something under active consideration.”

 

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.