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United Airlines has had a change of heart and is welcoming back into the fold 2,200 employees at the end of March who previously refused the COVID vaccine due to religious or medical reasons despite firing 200 other employees for refusing to get the jab.
Originally, the workers who took exemptions were given the option of working in a non-consumer-facing role. That no longer seems to be the case as the airline backtracked and is trying to welcome back employees after strongarming them over the vaccine mandate, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The decision follows a US appeals court ordering another review of a decision handed down that refused to block United Airlines from enforcing a vaccine mandate for workers.
United Airlines has the distinction of being the first major airline that mandated all employees to get the jab in August of 2021. They proudly crowed that 99.7 percent of United’s workforce was vaccinated in less than eight weeks.
United Airlines to Let Unvaccinated Workers Return 👏🏻
— Informed NJ Nurses (@InformedNJNurse) March 10, 2022
Other airlines followed United’s lead, including Southwest Airlines. It is unclear if those airlines will also hypocritically reverse course.
“The daily average of COVID cases has dropped more than 90% and related hospitalizations have declined more than two-thirds from their January 2022 peak,” United said in a memo to employees. “In fact, we’re seeing new case reports reaching their lowest levels since last summer. And while mask requirements remain in place on board our aircraft and in our airports, many cities and states are lifting COVID restrictions and the CDC recently relaxed its mask guidelines.”
“These changes suggest that the pandemic is beginning to meaningfully recede. As a result, we’re confident we can safely begin the process of returning our RAP employees to their jobs,” it added.
“Of course, if another variant emerges or the COVID trends suddenly reverse course, we will reevaluate the appropriate safety protocols at that time,” United’s vice president of human resources, Kirk Limache, asserted in the memo, according to CNBC.com.
The 200 employees who were fired will not be coming back and new hires will still need to be vaccinated, however, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The 200 fired without exemptions will not be brought back and all new hires must be vaccinated…bringing back the few with religious or health exceptions is a very small victory. This shit is not over.
— LisaMarie-#PureBlood (@lstrollo) March 10, 2022
One employee who lost her job was Sherry Walker, 53. She was a United pilot who was placed on unpaid leave after citing religious objections to the jab. Due to the company’s strict non-compete clause, she was allegedly unable to obtain another job.
Walker is the co-founder of Airline Employees for Health Freedom. She was very vocal during a Washington, DC protest against vaccine mandates in January.
“I am out on unpaid leave. I am prohibited from getting another job. I’m prohibited from accessing my 401(k). I have no medical benefits, and I’m leading the charge in this fight, so my days are consumed,” Walker told the Daily Signal.
She claims that pilots who applied for internal reassignment were rejected due to their vaccine status.
“I’m an international wide-body captain, and they wanted to offer me a job throwing bags for $12 an hour,” she told the Daily Mail.
“It’s so retaliatory in all directions. Every step of the way, it’s been coercive to try to force us to get that shot in the arm,” Walker bitterly remarked.
— DeniseRoars🚛🚚 (@DeniseRoars) March 10, 2022
The politics of mandates have cost airlines big time. American, Delta, and United have reported combined losses of $36.5 billion since the beginning of 2020. Southwest Airlines is expected to post its second annual loss in 47 years. They need every worker they have to help recover.
Higher fuel costs due to President Joe Biden’s energy policies and restricted airspace in connection to the war in Ukraine aren’t helping the recovery.
Airline share prices fell roughly 10 percent this week in trading on Wall Street due to surging oil prices. United was down by more than 10 percent during trading on Monday, Delta was down eight percent, and American Airlines was down approximately seven percent, according to the New York Post.
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