United Airlines to Require Employee Vaccinations (Survey)

United Airlines to Require Employee Vaccinations (Survey)

United Airlines to Require Employee Vaccinations (Survey)

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Reversing his earlier promise not to be the first to issue vaccine mandates, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby announced that all US-based employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by this fall.

This move by United was poorly communicated to Union Members, and reverses earlier promises.
Today’s announcement reverses Kirby’s statement he made in January of this year when he said, “I don’t think United will get away with and can realistically be the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory. We need some others…to show leadership, particularly in the healthcare industry.”

District 141 stands by the position shared with members at that time, encouraging incentives, not mandates. “We expected better collaboration between United’s executives and the airline’s unions on this critical issue,” said IAMAW District 141 President, Mike Klemm. “Clearly, we are working with a different regime, the Oscar Muñoz style of management is over,” said Klemm.

Ramp, Gate, and Ticket Counter workers will need to upload proof of vaccination.
United workers can upload an image of their vaccination card on the United employee’s FlyingTogether website. For most employees, once it’s been recorded, it will be stored in “My Info” near your Payroll Advice and W2 forms. 

When will I need to have my vaccination records uploaded?
You should upload your vaccination information to Flying Together as soon as possible. The deadline to have records on file is five weeks after September 20, 2021, or five weeks after the FDA gives the vaccine full approval, whichever comes first. The latest possible date for having your vaccination records on file is October 25th, but the FDA is expected to grant full approval status much sooner – which means that waiting until October 25th may be a bad idea that could result in disciplinary action. If you’re vaccinated, please upload your vaccination records right away. 

What are the incentives for getting vaccinated?
Since vaccines first became available, the IAMAW has been working with airlines to develop incentive programs to encourage employees to get vaccinated. At airlines like United, this has led to things like on-site vaccination clinics, time off from work, and educational outreach efforts. Now, United is offering an extra day of pay for those who get vaccinated. That means additional hours will be added to your paycheck, based on how many hours you are scheduled to work. That’s free money to do something that can save you and those around you from getting seriously hurt or killed by this virus.

Companies can legally require vaccines, and airlines have been doing it for years.
In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that requiring employees to take a COVID vaccine does not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Legal experts are in broad agreement that employers may require vaccines for those who want to do certain jobs and to reduce risks to customers and their workforces.

Many companies already require vaccinations and other job-related medical examinations. Medical staff, teachers and students, workers in the adult industry, and military service members are a few examples of occupations where vaccinations are required to protect employees from diseases. Airlines have been requiring vaccinations for employees such as pilots and flight attendants for years.

As for the COVID vaccines specifically, airlines may not have a choice whether to require vaccinations, especially those carriers that fly to international destinations. Many countries are drafting requirements for everyone traveling in or out of their borders, including vaccinations. As this happens, anyone traveling to those areas will need to get vaccinated against COVID – both passengers and flight crews alike.

How will the company handle employees that refuse to get vaccinated?
The United announcement was not explicit on repercussions for workers that refuse to follow the new guidelines. However, it seems clear that vaccinations will soon be a requirement for anyone wishing to hold a position at United Airlines in the US. Vaccinations are now considered to be a safety requirement at the airline. Actions by employees that affect safety can result in discipline.

Any disciplinary action will be subject to the standard Grievance Process.

Employees with specific disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs may have additional legal rights that employers must respect. The EEOC can offer further guidance and legal assistance.

Both SARS-CoV-2 vaccines currently available are safe and effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
Before becoming available for public use, each COVID vaccine goes through extensive testing and oversight. They must pass rigorous clinical trials, meet stringent federal guidelines, and undergo continuous monitoring for side effects, allergies, and any other problems.

All available vaccines in the US are currently approved by the FDA for emergency use. Full FDA approval is anticipated in September 2021. 

All FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines available today are proven safe and effective against the coronavirus. However, the CDC recommends that anyone who had an anaphylactic (life-threatening) reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should not have a second dose. It also advises anyone who is allergic to any ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines to not get vaccinated. Any employees who fall into those categories should be exempted from any vaccine mandate. These allergies have arisen in a tiny number of recipients, but no fatalities or severe reactions have been recorded.

None of the approved COVID-19 vaccines have resulted in widespread health concerns; from clinical trials to real-world use. No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported from the millions of injections that have occurred so far. In contrast, the coronavirus has killed more than 615,000 people in the US, and thousands more are suffering from long-term effects as a result of contracting the deadly disease.

In recent years, anti-vaccine sentiments have become popular in some groups, but there is no scientific basis for vaccine panic.

Widespread vaccinations against COVID will help achieve the “herd immunity” to the virus that is necessary for the airline industry to carry enough passengers and return to profitability over the next few years… and the only way that most airline workers will remain safely employed.

More information about the safety of vaccines is available from Johns Hopkins University.

Without mass vaccinations against COVID-19, airline work will become extremely precarious. Anyone working at any airline could suddenly find themselves out of a job.
Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, travel has plummeted from more than 2 million passengers a day to a low of below 90,000. Over a year later, air traffic is still at lower than typical levels. Airlines have asked for billions of dollars in supplemental government aid so they can survive while the pandemic rages worldwide. In spite of all that help, more than a dozen airlines have declared bankruptcy, resulting in thousands of jobs lost permanently. Even with vaccinations widely available, mask mandates, COVID testing, and other measures, commercial aviation is in a precarious position.

The COVID vaccines are a lifeline for US airline workers. However, it could still take months to fully vaccinate 350 million Americans and end the pandemic once and for all. For airlines, the sooner Americans get immunized on a mass scale, the sooner airlines can recover. 

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you support or oppose mandatory vaccinations for airline workers? Let us know by completing this short survey:

 

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Letters: One Shot From a More Normal Life

I was able to get vaccinated on Sunday at the Clinic in Chicago. I got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but I would have been happy to get any of the approved vaccines that are available.  I would like to thank District 141 and United for helping to make this happen. 

There are three reasons I opted to receive the shot. First off, I do not want to get Covid-19. 

I have not seen my 89-year-old father since January of last year, and this separation has been very hard on our family.  My dad lives in a healthcare facility in SAN, and the risks to the residents were too great to allow visitors like me.

He has told me that the isolation that he has endured over the past year has been incredibly painful. He compares it to his experiences on the front lines during the Korean War. 

He has received both his shots and looks forward to seeing us in the very near future face to face once again. Now that I’m vaccinated as well, our family can be together, in the same place again. This is a major step towards getting back to a normal life.

I also enjoy traveling when it is vacation time. Wherever travelers want to go, getting there will be easier with a vaccination card in hand.

It’s been nearly 24 hours since getting my shot, and I have had no side effects at all. Not even a sore arm. If anything, I feel as if a heavy burden has been lifted from me, because it has. I urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn and help other people get vaccinated if you can. You won’t believe how good it feels to have this pandemic behind you. 

William Salo,
IAMAW District 141 Safety Director, United Airlines

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Brother Dennis and a group of dedicated safety advocates are busy and excited about the rollout of this program that will help increase awareness and education on the actions and procedures we should all follow so we can go home just as healthy and safe as we came into work. 

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Last week, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby raised eyebrows when he said in an interview that he would like to see mandatory vaccinations for employees at the airline. Here are a few facts to keep in mind:

United is not planning to require COVID-19 vaccines right now, and it might not happen at all. 

Kirby said United cannot realistically mandate vaccinations unless other airlines and companies do the same and require their employees to take them as well. 

Following Kirby’s statement, sources at several airlines, including American, Alaska, and Delta, said they have no plans to require vaccinations for their employees. A spokesperson at Southwest Airlines said the carrier would ensure that all employees would get vaccinated, but without mentioning mandates. The airline recently pledged to provide free vaccines to all employees, and to require its health plans to cover all associated administrative costs. 

Right now, mandating mass vaccinations does not appear to be an idea that has much support in the aviation industry, especially when other options exist such as incentives and making immunizations freely available (as Southwest is doing). Some retail and grocery chains are offering incentives ranging from paid time off, health benefit credits, and even cash payouts and gift cards to encourage employees to get vaccinated. These policies present their own set of challenges involving privacy and discrimination concerns. But, since the CDC does not expect large numbers of vaccine doses to become available for several months, vaccine mandates are a moot point in the near term.

Companies can legally require vaccines, and airlines have been doing it for years.

In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that requiring employees to take a COVID vaccine does not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Legal experts are in broad agreement that employers may require vaccines for those who want to do certain jobs, and to reduce risks to customers and their workforces.

Many companies already require vaccinations and other job-related medical examinations. Medical staff, teachers and students, workers in the adult industry, and military service members are a few examples of occupations where vaccinations are required to protect employees from diseases. Airlines have been requiring vaccinations for employees such as pilots and flight attendants for years.

As for the COVID vaccines specifically, airlines may not have a choice whether to require vaccinations, especially those carriers that fly to international destinations. Many countries are drafting requirements for everyone traveling in or out of their borders, including vaccinations. As this happens, anyone traveling to those areas will need to get vaccinated against COVID – both passengers and flight crews alike.

IAM District Lodge 141 considers a mandate for COVID-19 vaccines to be unnecessarily controversial and will grieve any attempt to discipline employees who choose to wait. Instead of punishments, companies should use incentives first.

Patience and understanding are required at this time. Attempts to impose vaccinations may trigger opposition to immunization programs that are vital to the survival of airlines and airline work. Some workers will only take part reluctantly, and companies may lose valuable employee trust. We must also recognize that mistrust for vaccines historically runs high among some ethnic and racial minority groups, but these groups are also the ones that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus. Workers who are afraid of the COVID vaccines, however, will most likely lose some of their fear once they see their coworkers getting safely vaccinated. It makes sense to let those who are unafraid and willing to combat the pandemic directly go first. Later on in the rollout, the more timid employees can re-evaluate their willingness to participate. Mandates, simply put, are likely to backfire and slow down the process of immunizations.

Companies can facilitate programs to help workers get immunized promptly. Setting up facilities on-site, offering incentives such as paid time to get vaccinated, and covering any associated costs are far better options than making authoritarian edicts.

Employees with specific disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs may have additional legal rights that employers must respect. The EEOC can offer further guidance and legal assistance.

Both SARS-CoV-2 vaccines currently available are safe and effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

Before becoming available for public use, each COVID vaccine goes through extensive testing and oversight. They must pass rigorous clinical trials, meet stringent federal guidelines, and undergo continuous monitoring for side effects, allergies, and any other problems.

All FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines available today are proven safe and effective against the Coronavirus. However, the CDC recommends that anyone who had an anaphylactic (life-threatening) reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should not have a second dose. It also advises anyone who is allergic to any ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines to not get vaccinated. Any employees who fall into those categories should be exempted from any vaccine mandate. These allergies have arisen in a tiny number of recipients, but no fatalities or severe reactions have been recorded.

None of the approved COVID-19 vaccines have resulted in any serious health concerns; from clinical trials to real-world use. No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported from the millions of injections that have occurred so far. In contrast, the coronavirus has killed more than 433,000 people in the US, and thousands more are suffering from long-term effects as a result of contracting the deadly disease.

In recent years, anti-vaccine sentiments have become popular in some groups, but there is no real-world basis for vaccine panic.

Widespread vaccinations against COVID will help achieve the “herd immunity” to the virus that is necessary for the airline industry to carry enough passengers and return to profitability over the next few years… and the only way that most airline workers will remain safely employed.

More information about the safety of vaccines is available from Johns Hopkins University.

Without mass vaccinations against COVID-19, airline work will become extremely precarious. Anyone working at any airline could suddenly find themselves out of a job.

Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, travel has plummeted from more than 2 million passengers a day to a low of below 90,000. Nearly a year later, air travel is less than half of what it was in 2019. Airlines are asking for billions of dollars in supplemental government aid so they can survive while the pandemic rages worldwide. In spite of all that help, more than a dozen airlines have declared bankruptcy, resulting in thousands of jobs lost permanently. Even with mask mandates, COVID testing, and other measures, airline traffic is still far from levels that can support full employment for aviation workers. It is an untenable situation, by any standards.

The COVID vaccines are a lifeline for US airline workers. Americans are getting vaccinated at the rate of over one million people a day, and President Biden’s administration has set a goal of over 100 million shots delivered within the next 100 days. Even at that rate, it could still take over a year to vaccinate 350 million Americans and end the pandemic once and for all. For airlines burning through mountains of cash daily, the sooner Americans get immunized on a mass scale, the sooner airlines can recover. But, for companies, the best and fastest way to accomplish that is by using incentives, not mandates.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you support or oppose mandatory vaccinations for airline workers? Let us know in the comments section, and take the  poll below. 

 

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IAM Transportation Department General Vice President Sito Pantoja issued the following statement regarding the need for increased airline and railroad security in the coming weeks:

“As a result of the assault on the Capitol Building and subsequent violent behavior by unruly airline travelers, the IAM demands that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and all airlines and rail carriers adjust and reinforce their security policies to further ensure the safety of all airline and rail workers and passengers.
 
While there have been some security improvements at airports and rail stations, more needs to be done. We have already witnessed dangerous behavior on aircraft from unruly passengers and with reports circulating of upcoming “protests” nationwide in the days leading up to the inauguration, the threat of violence to airline and rail workers and passengers will be increased.
 
Airline and rail workers have already risked their health by working tirelessly through the COVID pandemic, transporting travelers and goods across the globe. This country must do a better job protecting the people who work and use the transportation industry than they have done protecting those in the U.S. Congress.”

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Abusive Protesters Prompt New Flight Restrictions at American Airlines

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Abusive and disruptive acts by Trump supporters prompt American Airlines to impose new restrictions on flights to and from Washington, DC.

Repeated attacks on flight crews and passengers involve confrontations over face masks, racist and verbal attacks against other passengers, shouting at elected officials, and a “9/11-style threat” broadcast on a radio frequency used by commercial pilots ahead of the protests. 

Following a deadly insurrectionist riot at the Nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, American Airlines has announced new restrictions on Washington, DC flights. The measures are intended to protect flight crews, who have been the targets of numerous politically motivated threats over the past week. According to one union representing flight attendants at the airline, workers have been “forced to confront passengers exhibiting politically motivated aggression towards other passengers and crew.” 

“This is not a political debate. This is a growing trend of increasing abuse and hostility directed at airline workers, and it is unacceptable,” said Mike Klemm, President of IAMAW District 141, which represents over 38 thousand workers at five airlines, including American. “Machinists Union members have worked closely with airlines and government officials to see these attacks penalized with arrests and legal sanctions. As a result, we’ve won significant new protections for gate and ticket agents. We are pleased to see the leadership at American Airlines taking action, and we support any policies that create safer conditions for our members and our passengers.” 

Incidents reported over the past few days include abusive confrontations involving anti-mask protesters, harassment of elected representatives including Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) as they moved through airports, and clashes between passengers on-board flights. 

The increased safety measures follow several well-publicized incidents between flight crews and pandemic deniers and were announced on the same day that hundreds of Trump supporters traveled to Washington and invaded the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States. 

“We are working closely with local law enforcement and airport authority partners to ensure the safety of our customers and team members on the ground and in the air,” the airline said in the announcement of the new restrictions. In addition to increased staffing and reporting to law enforcement, the airline is also cutting back on alcohol service on some flights as a “precautionary” measure. 

Other airlines are expected to follow American by establishing new policies geared towards protecting airline workers and passengers from attacks, though few announcements have been made. 

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