Southwest Airlines Pilots Seek to Block Vaccination Mandate

Southwest Airlines pilots asked a court to temporarily block the company from carrying out federally mandated coronavirus vaccinations until an existing lawsuit over alleged U.S. labor law violations is resolved.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s filing Friday also asked for an immediate hearing on the request before a federal court in Dallas, claiming the carrier has continued to take unilateral actions that violate terms of the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline-union relations. Those steps include the Covid-19 vaccination requirement.


Southwest set the deadline on October 4th under a federal vaccination mandate for employees of companies holding contracts with the U.S. government. Workers can seek medical or religious exemptions. The union represents 9,000 Southwest pilots.


Other policies the union seeks to block include Southwest’s Covid quarantine rules for pilots; many complained about the company’s infectious disease control policy, which the union says significantly altered work conditions, rules, and rates of pay. The changes violate a “status quo” provision of the RLA by not maintaining the terms of an existing contract outlined in its original August 30th lawsuit.

Pilots are at a unique risk because adverse reactions to a vaccine could affect their ability to pass periodic medical examinations required to maintain their license. The union wants to negotiate, among other things, how such instances would be covered by long-term disability policies.

Southwest Airlines issued a statement in response which reads in part that the company is committed to working with its unions “as we continue navigating the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic.”

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