Federal Vaccine Requirement Announcement
In an announcement this evening, American Airlines followed up its Friday night announcement regarding its federal contractor status and the related COVID-19 vaccine mandate by stating that “all U.S.-based team members must submit proof of vaccination by Nov. 24.” All relevant APA subject-matter experts are still reviewing and assessing the implications of this latest announcement.
As I emphasized in my Oct. 1 update regarding the Company’s vaccine mandate announcement, APA fully expects management to meet its obligations under the Railway Labor Act to negotiate the implementation and effects of this mandatory vaccination requirement on our pilots. While there remain many unanswered questions and outstanding issues, one thing that management has confirmed is that it must, and will, comply with its existing contractual obligations as it moves forward with its plans. Our Negotiating Committee has already been in contact with its Company counterparts to outline some of the issues of concern and remaining unanswered questions, and we expect those discussions to continue in the coming days.
We understand that management’s latest message will likely create stress for some of our members. As always, please ensure that your focus remains on maintaining operational safety, and we encourage you to keep in mind the many union resources available to you, including the APA Aeromedical Committee and its five subcommittees. You may reach APA Aeromedical by calling 1-848-APA-CREW. Note that after dialing you will hear a menu with several options to include a direct connection to APA’s confidential Project Wingman.
In addition, I would like to address the efforts by the Southwest Airline Pilots Association (SWAPA) to challenge its airline’s failure to negotiate over various COVID-19-related matters, as we have received a number of queries from APA members about the steps SWAPA has taken. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SWAPA has been largely stiff-armed by Southwest management in response to its efforts to bargain over many of the same issues that APA addressed through the numerous letters of agreement we have executed during that same time period. While we have achieved agreements on such items as paid leave for COVID-19 cases and quarantines and payments for vaccines and testing, Southwest has refused to bargain over those issues and simply acted unilaterally under the purported auspices of “management’s rights.” Today, SWAPA amended its lawsuit to include allegations regarding Southwest’s refusal to bargain over its vaccine mandate. The relief sought by SWAPA is to obtain an Order from the Court compelling Southwest to negotiate with the union.
Notably, in its lawsuit, SWAPA cited the success of APA and other pilots’ unions in negotiating COVID-19-related agreements as support for its claim that Southwest has violated its obligations to negotiate under the law. More specifically, the Amended Complaint alleges that the Southwest Executive Vice President of Daily Operations attended a SWAPA Board Meeting in October 2021 in which “it was highlighted that Southwest Airlines’ biggest competitors (United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines) had all collectively bargained regarding COVID protocols and programs. Each of the other airlines had reached out to their respective labor unions at the onset of the pandemic and by May 2020 had negotiated COVID-related letters of agreement prior to changing the working conditions, rules, and pay of their unionized work force.” Bottom line: The facts underlying the ongoing dispute between SWAPA and Southwest are different than the situation we have experienced here with regard to bargaining over COVID-19-related issues.
To reiterate, we fully expect American Airlines management to continue its historical practice of bargaining with APA over issues related to the implementation and impact of the announced COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As we meet with management to address the mandate, we will keep you informed of the latest developments.