TULSA, Okla. — American Airlines, one of Tulsa’s largest employers, will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after the Federal government threatened to pull millions of dollars in contracts if they did not mandate vaccination.
In a letter sent out to employees late last week, American leadership said they have no choice but to comply, or major agreements that the company needs for revenue would be at risk.
The only ones who will be exempt are those who have strongly held religious beliefs or a disability, and those must be filed with the company.
There is no option for constant testing in lieu of vaccination the airline stated.
“As a result, the federal vaccine mandate requires that all of American’s U.S.-based team members and certain international crew members be vaccinated, without the provision of a regular testing alternative,” American CEO Doug Parker stated in the letter to company employees.
The airline is still receiving specific information about how they must be in compliance with the Federal government mandate. This mandate comes from the same executive order signed by President Joe Biden that requires vaccination in all Federal government contractors.
The Transport Workers Union Local 514, the union representing American mechanics at the Tulsa maintenance base, said they were reaching out to their attorneys to explore their legal options for members uncomfortable with the new mandate.
“There is just something wrong to me about the government telling you that you need to put something in your body in order to keep your job,” said TWU Local 514 President Dale Danker.
Danker, who himself is vaccinated, said the decision needs to be made between a person, their family physician, and their family, and that it should not be made for someone.
Discussions are happening right now between American’s unions about the best way for members who for whatever reason don’t want the vaccine to move forward, he said.
“This just doesn’t feel right to me,” he said in a publicly released video statement.
The airline laid out the stakes of non-compliance clearly in the letter it sent out.
“While we are still working through the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines,” the letter stated.
American had already started to pare back benefits for unvaccinated employees if they became positive for COVID-19 and needed to miss work, but the airline had not yet mandated vaccines. United Airlines had, and it had openly threatened to start the process of firing hundreds of employees who did not want to get the vaccine late last month.
There have been at least a dozen deaths linked to COVID-19 at the American Airlines maintenance base in Tulsa, but the airline and union put in safeguards to allow employees to distance and maintain clean and safe workplaces since the pandemic began.
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