Southwest Airlines is telling its staff to get the jab or get off the plane.
Monday, Airline based in Dallas announced that it requires all of its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In a statement, the company said it has decided to comply with the federal vaccination directive.
Last month, President Joe Biden’s administration said it would make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for staff at federal contractors, which include major airlines. Southwest employees must prove that they have received the vaccine by December, unless they are approved for medical, disability or religious accommodation.
“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination directive,” Gary Kelly, president and CEO of Southwest Airlines, said in the statement. “I encourage all Southwest employees to comply with the federal directive as quickly as possible, because we value each individual and want to ensure job security for all. ”
But not everyone is happy with the move, with the Southwest Airline Pilots Association (SWAPA) announcing that it will seek legal action to prevent the mandate from going into effect.
“We want to be perfectly clear: SWAPA is not anti-vaccination,” the union wrote in a press release, “but we believe that in all circumstances it is our role to represent health and safety of our pilots and bring their concerns to the Company.
Some fear that airline staff will quit en masse, especially as some hospitals requiring vaccines for workers are now dealing with a labor shortage. But others say the measure will ultimately work in favor of business.
Southwest’s move comes after another Dallas-based carrier, American Airlines, announced its own vaccine requirement last week. JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines, who are also federal contractors, have done the same.
We don’t know how many The 56,000 employees of the South West may be upset by vaccine requirements. The company does not have data to share on how many of its employees are or are not vaccinated, a company spokesperson said via email.
During this time, about 30% of American Airlines pilots are not vaccinated, according to NPR.
“We must continue to take measures to bring the virus under control. “- Ben Zipperer, economist
Ultimately, Southwest executives must feel the vaccine’s mandate will be right for their bottom line, said Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
One of the things holding back employment in the United States is that many don’t feel safe on the job, especially in government jobs, he said. That’s why low-wage industries, like retail and restaurant employers, struggle to find people willing to run for low wages.
Anything employers can do to improve working conditions – be it better wages or increased security – will make it easier for them to recruit and retain workers, Zipperer said. Still, Southwest and other businesses will likely face the departure of some workers due to COVID-related rules.
“It does happen,” he said, “but it’s kind of a drop in the bucket compared to the overall size of the workforce in these companies”.
Employees are often reluctant to give up their jobs, even if they don’t like their working conditions, Zipperer said. For many, it can be difficult to land and keep a job in their field, especially when you factor in things like commuting and childcare needs.
So while some vaccine-resistant employees are likely to get flustered, it will be a relatively small exodus from the overall workforce, he said.
The coronavirus has sparked new problems in the economy, Zipperer added.
“I think everyone at some level recognizes… that the threat, not only to people’s health but to the economy as a whole, is the virus,” he said. “And so we must continue to take steps to bring the virus under control. ”