Federal judge rejects request by Southwest Airlines pilots to block vaccination warrant

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A Southwest Airlines jet sits at a gate at the Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida, the United States, October 11, 2021.

Joe Skipper | Reuters

A Texas federal judge has rejected the Southwest Airlines Pilots Union’s request to temporarily block a vaccine warrant for employees, a requirement under new government rules.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines must require staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 8, unless they receive a religious or medical exemption, according to rules for federal contractors that the administration Biden posted last month.

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Southwest and other major airlines like Delta, United, and American transport federal employees, US mail, and other government services.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents some 9,000 airmen, has sought a temporary injunction against the warrant. The union had argued that the mandate, along with other company policies related to Covid, should be negotiated with the union.

“Requiring Southwest employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will also improve air travel safety, the efficiency of Southwest operations and promote the [collective bargaining agreement’s] goal of safe and reasonable working conditions for pilots, ”wrote US District Judge Barbara Lynn in her decision on Tuesday, dismissing the union’s request for a restraining order and dismissing the case.

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The union said it was disappointed with the decision and “we are currently considering the next steps”.

It wasn’t the only dispute over airline vaccine warrants. United Airlines is fighting a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth brought by six employees who claimed they were unfairly denied warrant exemptions. The judge temporarily blocked United’s plan to put staff with exemptions on unpaid leave.

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