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United Airlines CEO Wants Mandatory COVID Vaccines for Employees

United Airlines’ CEO wants to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for employees and is encouraging other companies do the same.

It’s a stance that differs from other airlines and companies in other sectors like retail and auto manufacturing.

“The worst thing that I believe I will ever do in my career is the letters that I have written to the surviving family members of coworkers that we have lost to the coronavirus,” CEO Scott Kirby said at an employee town hall Thursday, a transcript of which was reviewed by CNBC. “And so, for me, because I have confidence in the safety of the vaccine – and I recognize it’s controversial – I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory.”

United had more than 60,000 active U.S. employees at the end of 2020 and has sent recall notices to some 17,000 other workers whose jobs were cut last year.

Kirby acknowledged logistical challenges to getting staff vaccinated.

Airline employees are considered essential workers and are likely to receive the vaccine before many people. But the rollout so far has been slow and chaotic with the nation running behind targets.

Airline executives have said widespread vaccinations will help revive air travel demand as carriers grapple with billions of dollars in losses.

“I don’t think United will get away with and can realistically be the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory,” he said. “We need some others. We need some others to show leadership. Particularly in the healthcare industry.”

In the staff note, it said it’s working with government officials and health-care providers to set up vaccine distribution centers at some of its big hubs.

Some employees have been hesitant to take vaccines.

“It’s certainly a sensitive topic all the way around,” Michael Klemm, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 141, which represents fleet and passenger service workers at United, said in an email. “We’ve received some frustration from members who don’t want to take the vaccine as well as concern from members who don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t take it.”

Klemm said the union members can file a grievance for any disciplinary action that results from their refusal to be vaccinated. If they object to being inoculated because of a religious belief or disability they can file complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The United flight attendants’ labor union, the Association of Flight Attendants, said its focus is on ensuring vaccine access for crew members.

“Right now, Flight Attendants are in different tiers for access in each state,” AFA spokeswoman Taylor Garland said in a statement. “We need a federal approach that prioritizes Flight Attendants as essential workers facilitating interstate commerce.” Read Full Article >

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