While the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) union is supportive of mandatory mask requirements for all United Airlines employees, it does not like that United’s new mandate could lead to immediate termination for violators.
Union Backs United Mask Mandate, Just Not Harsh Discipline For Employees Who Do Not Comply
Yesterday, Kate Gebo, United’s Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations, issued a stern warning to employees concerning face masks:
“If an employee violates this policy, they are subject to discipline up to and including termination.”
Live and Let’s Fly obtained a copy of the new directive, which provides for a termination warning for the first offense and termination for the second offense of not wearing your mask:
Note that the second chance is for employees with a clean disciplinary record. An employee who got into trouble for an unrelated matter may be terminated immediately for failing to wear a mask. The policy also notes that employees who fail to wear masks will lose travel privileges.
Union Opposes “Accelerated” Discipline
In a note to flight attendants from the AFA United Master Executive Counsel (MEC), union leaders vowed to fight the “harsh” new policy:
“Your MEC officers want to be very clear – we fully support the concept that everyone should wear a mask – all employees, including management, and passengers. As Kate and others have pointed out, the scientific information that demonstrates the efficacy of wearing masks in minimizing the spread of the virus in incontrovertible. And while there are those who might wish to debate the scientific findings or even assert that their rights are being violated, there is a very simple concept in place here. It’s this; I wear a mask to protect you. You wear a mask to protect me. It is a matter of respect and we understand this.
“However, while we affirmatively support the requirement to wear masks in the workplace nor do we dispute management’s ability to establish the policy, we have expressed concerns at the highest levels of management that we believe the policy, as written, is too harsh. We are prepared to challenge the way management proposes to discipline Flight Attendants on an accelerated basis. As such, we will be filing a MEC Grievance.”
I get that the AFA and other unions will seek to protect their workers. I also think an employee should not be fired if a mask inadvertently drops below their nose or they forget to put it back on immediately after eating or stepping out of their car. But for any employee who refuses to wear a mask…I say good riddance.
The AFA is walking a fine line here. While supportive of United’s effort to hold employees accountable for wearing masks, it nevertheless sees United’s draconian two strike policy as going a bit too much. Now we will wait and see if United voluntarily backs down or whether this must be arbitrated.