Hundreds of American Airlines (AA) workers—including pilots and flight attendants in uniforms—took to the streets outside the company’s Fort Worth, Texas headquarters on Thursday to protest against the new measures, The Dallas Morning News reports.
Many of them brandished signs reading “Mandates won’t fly” and “Don’t fire my Dad” in response to the new rules, while some protestors said they were skeptical of the effectiveness of the vaccine and concerned about unreported side effects.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn’t reported any long-term side effects from the approved COVID-19 vaccines, noting that they have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.
American Airlines told workers in an email Wednesday night that they have to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 24 or face termination.
The company said it is providing an extra day of vacation pay and other incentives for employees who submit proof of vaccination by the November deadline and that employees will be able to seek religious or health exemptions to vaccination.
Southwest Airlines (SWA) also announced it will require all of its 56,000 U.S. employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Biden administration last month issued an executive order requiring all federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, unless they are granted a religious or medical exemption.
Contractors that don’t comply may lose out on government contracts. Large U.S. airlines have a number of federal contracts.
The Dallas-based airline said in a press release on Oct. 4 that it had conducted a “thorough review” of the new rules from the Biden administration, and determined that its contracts with the U.S. government “require full compliance with the federal vaccination directive.”
U.S.-based employees of the major carrier have to be fully vaccinated or have an approved religious, medical, or disability accommodation by Dec. 8 to keep their jobs.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), a union, announced on Oct. 5 that it would be filing a temporary restraining order against SWA to stop the company from carrying forward its mandate. The order forms part of a lawsuit that SWAPA filed on Aug. 30 challenging forced time off and other changes to working conditions imposed by the airline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” SWAPA said in a statement.
SWAPA has authorized its members to demonstrate against the mandate and strenuous working conditions during the pandemic and has also authorized $1 million in support of those protests, which could begin this fall, according to SWAPA president Casey Murray, News Week reports.
The Allied Pilots Association, a labor union representing American Airlines pilots, said on Wednesday that it “expects management to meet its obligations under the Railway Labor Act to negotiate the implementation and effects of this mandatory vaccination requirement on our pilots.”
The Railway Labor Act seeks to promptly resolve disputes between airline carriers and their employees and protects the rights of workers to collectively bargain.
United Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to mandate vaccines for its domestic employees, having announced its mandate in August. It confirmed on Sept. 29 that it was going to terminate 593 of its employees who have chosen to not comply with the company’s vaccine mandate.
Delta Air Lines remains a major U.S. carrier that has chosen not to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all its employees, although it does require all new U.S. employees to be vaccinated, and that all unvaccinated Delta staff enrolled in its health care plan pay a $200 monthly surcharge.
Mimi Nguyen Ly and Reuters contributed to this report.