Rep. Zeldin Reacts to Southwest Airlines’ Vaccine Mandate, Shares Email to Employees from CEO
PATCHOGUE, NY - Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) today shared an “Ask Gary” email to employees of Southwest Airlines from the company’s CEO Gary Kelly. In the September 29th email, Mr. Kelly states that he does not believe he has the right to “mandate people to be vaccinated”. Just five days later, Southwest announced that employees “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”, citing “a thorough review of President Biden's COVID Action Plan”.
While the President’s COVID Action Plan entails a rule “that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work”, that rule has yet to be completed and issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The COVID Action Plan allows for unvaccinated employees to produce a weekly negative test to come to work, which was not included in Southwest’s announcement of its vaccine mandate.
The airline is now on its fifth day of widespread delays and cancelations, which began shortly after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association petitioned a federal court on Friday to block the company’s vaccine mandate.
“Southwest is talking out of both sides of its mouth. One minute, the CEO says he has no right to mandate vaccination, and the next, he’s imposing a mandate that’s even more restrictive than the one from the federal government that he says is forcing his hand and has yet to even be issued by OSHA. Neither the government nor private companies should be playing doctor or interfering with the personal medical decisions of individuals with regards to the COVID vaccine. The Biden Administration, governors and state officials across the nation need to take note of the chaos that vaccine mandates have caused from staffing shortages forcing the postponement of elective procedures at certain hospitals to other negative impacts on the lives of Americans,” said Congressman Zeldin. “It doesn’t have to be this way. There are PPE, improved testing options and other mitigation measures in place that can effectively keep employees safe without forcing them out of their jobs. As President Biden said in December 2020, ‘No, I don’t think it should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory.’”