U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R – TX) and Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, had a testy exchange during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this week concerning employee vaccine mandates.
Ted Cruz Vs. Scott Kirby
Cruz lambasted Kirby for United’s vaccine mandate, noting he over a million miles on United.
“I’m proud to say the two airlines based in Texas, Mr. Kelly’s airline and Mr. Parker’s airline, I think had been exemplary, particularly concerning vaccine mandates, both of you have made public commitments that you will not be firing your employees because of failure to comply with the vaccine mandate. I thank you for that. Mr. Bastian has likewise made that commitment at Delta.
“The outlier here is United. Mr. Kirby, United’s behavior on this issue, I have to say, has been deeply disturbing. I’m a frequent customer of United. I live in Houston, I’ve got over a million miles on United. There are over 14,000 United employees in the state of Texas. The way United has treated its employees is in marked contrast to your competitors sitting here. Your competitors have said they will stand with their employees. United has not made that same commitment.”
“We did this for safety. We believe it saved lives. We don’t compromise on safety.”
Cruz then asked United how many pilots were fired for not complying with the vaccine mandate. Kirby responded that six were, adding only about 200 employees in total were fired for refusing to be vaccinated or seek an exemption on religious or medical grounds.
“Just recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Ho, someone I know very well, an exemplary jurist, wrote an opinion in which he described the likelihood of your employees succeeding on the merits as the claims against you ‘appear compelling and convincing at this stage.’ I want to read what Judge Ho wrote about United.
“Title Seven forbids employers from retaliating against employees who attempt to exercise their statutory rights. Yet, United CEO Scott Kirby told employees at a company town hall meeting that, ‘very few religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate would be granted.’ Then, and that anyone who even attempted to request one would be, ‘putting their job on the line.’ I saw that video, and it’s a disturbing video.”
Cruz is referring to the leaked video below. Although Kirby initially warned employees against “getting religious” it is my understanding that no religious exemption requests were ultimately rejected:
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Sticking to script, Kirby again framed United’s employee vaccine mandate, which came before the federal requirement, as an issue of safety:
“Again, we did this for safety. We believe it saved lives. I think that’s my number one obligation, safety, particularly running an airline.”
Cruz interrupted and asked if United’s competitors are unsafe for not forcing employees to get a vaccine. Kirby responded:
“I think that the world is safer. For us, I made the decision at United, and I’ll let my competitors speak for themselves, but for United getting everyone vaccinated would save lives and create a safer environment for all the other workers.”
Cruz responded that he flies United every week and is “almost always” stopped by pilots and flight attendants thanking him for standing up to the vaccine mandate.
“Your company is better than this and what you are doing is wrong.”
You can watch the exchange here:
Two politicians going at it, one running an airline, one representing Texas. Whether Cruz is right or wrong, the grandstanding is why I left my life of politics…and he was hardly alone at doing so over that three-hour hearing.