At United Airlines, employees without a vaccine who do not qualify for a narrow exemption will be terminated later this year. The union representing United flight attendants has warned it will not help them seek such an exemption.
United Airlines Flight Attendants Union: You’re On Your Own With Your Vaccination Exemption Request
Earlier this month, United issued a vaccine mandate, requiring all employees be jabbed in order to stay on with the company. That requirement kicks in:
- Five weeks after the FDA has announced it has fully approved a COVID-19 vaccine
- Five weeks after September 20, 2021
(whichever comes FIRST)
That means that by October 25, 2021 (and potentially before) all United Airlines employees based in the United States must submit proof of vaccination or they will be fired.
But there are two narrow exemptions, as required by law, including for :
- Religious reasons
- Medical reasons
As broad as those loopholes appear, I’m told that United has a staff of doctors and lawyers carefully scrutinizing every exemption (I’m not sure how United verifies if a religious belief is sincere, but that’s another issue…)
But for flight attendants hoping the union would support their exemptions, the Association of Flight Attendants has made clear it will not offer assistance beyond a possible extension of the mandate. In a memo to flight attendants, the AFA said:
We will utilize all resources available through our Union to not only protect the contractual rights of all of our Members, but to also fully understand the impact this announcement will have on those who do not meet the timeline established by the requirement.
Subject to exceptions for medical reasons and religious beliefs, the EEOC has ruled that employers are within their right to establish a vaccination requirement. To address medical exceptions and sincerely held religious beliefs, the Reasonable Accommodation Process is a government mandated, legal process employees use.
We do want to be very clear. In both instances, these are private issues between the employer, United Airlines, and the employee. It is for this reason that we must direct those seeking a reasonable accommodation to United management for these details.
I understand the union is behind the mandate (I am too). But this “private issue” language strikes me as highly arbitrary. If I were seeking a valid exemption, was denied, and paid union dues, I would certainly expect my union to step up and advocate on my behalf. Here, though, the union appears to be taking a more utilitarian approach to advocating for its members.
In accordance with federal law, United is offering exemptions for religious and medical reasons to its vaccine requirements. That said, flight attendants seeking these exemptions are on their own, as the union has made clear it will not intervene in this “private issue” between employee and employer.
(H/T: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)