Airlines reject Texas ban on vaccine mandates, say Biden order takes precedence


An American Airlines plane landing on a runway at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Enlarge / An American Airlines Boeing 787 lands at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Getty Images | Joshua Olson

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines said they will not comply with the Texas governor’s ban on vaccine mandates, saying that the US vaccine mandate for federal contractors takes precedence. Both airlines are headquartered in Texas.

“We are reviewing the executive order issued by Gov. Abbott, but we believe the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws, and this does not change anything for American,” an American Airlines spokesperson told The Washington Post and other news organizations. Southwest said that “according to the president’s executive order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the president’s order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” according to CNBC.

IBM, which is based in New York but has several large offices in Texas, will also follow the federal order instead of the one in Texas. “IBM is a federal contractor and must comply with federal requirements, which direct employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 8th or obtain a medical or religious accommodation,” IBM told Bloomberg. “We will continue to protect the health and safety of IBM employees and clients, and we will continue to follow federal requirements.”

Texas-based Dell said that “[a]ny employee or contractor who experiences challenges with the policy will have the option, by role, to work remotely,” according to Time.

Texas governor claims Biden “bullying” private entities

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order stating that “[n]o entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.” The executive order applies even to private businesses and claims that the Biden administration is committing “federal overreach” by “bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, causing workforce disruptions that threaten Texas’ continued recovery from the COVID-19 disaster.”

“[C]ountless Texans fear losing their livelihoods because they object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination for reasons of personal conscience,” the order also said. Abbott’s move was a reversal from his previous stance, as his spokesperson said in August that “private businesses don’t need [the] government running their business.”

Biden in September issued an executive order requiring adequate COVID safety protocols for federal contractors, and the Biden administration later issued guidance stating that federal contractors and subcontractors must require “COVID-19 vaccination of covered contractor employees, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation.”

Biden is also requiring vaccines for health-care workers in US-funded facilities and vaccines or weekly tests for employees of private companies with at least 100 employees.

US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) claimed on Twitter that Southwest canceling flights is evidence of “Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work!” However, Southwest blamed weather and air traffic control problems in addition to a staff shortage and said claims that flights were canceled because of employees protesting the company’s vaccine mandate are “inaccurate” and that “there’s a lot of unfounded rumor and speculation circulating.” The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said its members “are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.”




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