Texas-based Southwest and American Airlines both said on Tuesday they would move forward with mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, despite the state governor’s attempt to ban such requirements across Texas this week.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) on Monday signed an executive order banning vaccine warrants for any business, government office or other entity across the state, despite the continued threat from the coronavirus and its highly transmissible delta variant.
This effort flies in the face of President Joe Biden’s federal requirement that companies with 100 or more employees must mandate vaccination or weekly testing for COVID-19. The White House asked the Department of Labor to write a rule last month, a move that could ultimately impact 100 million Americans. There is also a separate provision that requires all federal workers and government contractors to be vaccinated as well.
Federal contractors have until December 8 to show they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Southwest and American have asked employees to submit proof of vaccination by Nov. 24.
“Federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we should comply with the president’s order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” Southwest told Politico in a statement Tuesday, adding that he would continue to inform employees of any “potential changes.”
American Airlines also told The Hill that it was reviewing Abbott’s order, but also believed that “the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws, and that doesn’t change anything.”
Almost all of the major U.S. airlines have announced staff vaccination warrants after the White House announcements. Delta Air Lines does not have a vaccine requirement but charges a monthly supplement of $ 200 for unvaccinated workers.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said this week he was opposed to a vaccine requirement, but added the company must comply with the Biden ruling.
Vaccination remains a safe and effective way to prevent serious illness and death associated with COVID-19, but mandates for Americans to do so have remained a flashpoint among conservatives. Abbott, who is himself fully vaccinated, has regularly adopted mask and vaccination requirements across the state, calling Biden’s orders “intimidation” against private companies.
Only about 52% of the population of Texas are fully immunized, and the state still averages over 7,000 new cases per day.