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What is United Doing?

August 25, 2021

As you are likely aware, United Airlines’ top management has mandated that all United Airlines employees must have received their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the only shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, by September 27th or face termination. IAM District 141 opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. We have discussed ways to increase vaccination incentives and testing procedures for IAM members who are hesitant to get the vaccine. United has refused to adequately use incentive programs in this effort.

Yesterday, however, United Ground Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Continental Holdings Inc., a subsidiary which is completely controlled by United CEO, Scott Kirby, informed UGE employees that they are NOT required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment AND there exists NO plan for a testing regime for UGE employees. The lack of consistent vaccine rules at UA/UGE will not create a safer environment for our membership.

CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said the following: “We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees, but we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

What the hell is the difference between United and UGE employees? 

On the one hand, Scott Kirby is framing the vaccine requirements at United as a matter of employee safety. On the other hand, he is allowing vaccinations to be optional at UGE. The decision on whether or not to impose vaccine mandates is already extremely controversial. Mixed messaging like this is making the situation far more provocative than it needs to be. If mandates are not needed at UGE, then why are they being imposed at United?

UGE and United employees work side by side in locations such as EWR, ORD and DEN. Workers in those locations are entitled to the same safety measures when at work. 

While we may not agree with an unnecessarily punitive strategy of vaccine mandates, we must have a consistent approach from the company.

This is what UGE President Ken Brown wrote to his employees yesterday: “We have heard from many employees on this topic and every possible point of view has been represented. No deeply held position is invalid and we respect everyone’s ability to decide what is best for themselves.”

All IAM members at United Continental Holdings Inc. can rest assured that IAM District 141 will do all that it can to find out why United management has two completely different and conflicting policies regarding keeping their employees safe during the worst pandemic in over 100 years.

In solidarity with all IAM members, 

Michael G. Klemm
President and Directing General Chair,
IAMAW District 141

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