Southwest says it still plans to implement its employee vaccine mandate, citing federal rules that trump the Texas governor’s blanket ban

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

  • Southwest Airlines plans to keep its vaccine mandate despite the Texas governor’s executive order.
  • President Biden’s federal vaccine requirement supersedes state law, according to the carrier.
  • Southwest said that to remain a government contractor, it must comply with the president’s mandate.

Southwest Airlines said it will comply with President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issuing an executive order prohibiting it.

On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order preventing any organization, including private businesses, from forcing workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The move comes as President Joe Biden issued a federal vaccine mandate in September requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing.

“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” Abbott wrote in the order.

Many Texas-based corporations have already announced they will comply with Biden’s order, including Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announcing its workers need to be fully vaccinated by November 24, except for those who have an approved medical or religious accommodation.

Despite Abbott’s order, Southwest said it would continue to comply with the federal mandate, challenging the Republican governor’s decree and creating tension between the company and lawmakers.

“According to the president’s executive order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the president’s order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” a Southwest spokesperson told Insider on Tuesday.

Many major carriers, including Southwest, United, American, and Delta, have government contracts that transport goods and employees, and therefore have to comply with Biden’s vaccine mandate. In early October, American Airlines mandated its employees be inoculated or face termination, while Delta has yet to implement the requirement.

Southwest’s rebuttal comes after a four-day meltdown that canceled over 3,000 flights and left passengers stranded in airports across the country. While the carrier blamed air traffic control issues and weather for the disruptions, some high-profile public figures said the mass cancellations were due to a pilot anti-mandate protest. However, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Casey Murray denied the rumors.

“I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise,” Murray said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Kelly told CNBC on Tuesday that a walkout did not occur.

“We have some very strong views on that topic, but that’s not what was at issue with Southwest over the weekend,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider