DALLAS — After negotiations between Southwest Airlines and a pilot union fell through, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association took legal action against the company for their forced COVID vaccination policy. However, on Tuesday, Chief District Judge Barbara Lynn of the Northern District of Texas denied the pilots’ injunction request, meaning Southwest can still terminate pilots who are not vaccinated by the company’s December 8 deadline.

When Southwest announced earlier this month that they would require all employees to get injected by December 8 or be fired, SWAPA was the first union to contest. They immediately attempted bargaining with the airliner, claiming the jab could potentially put pilots at risk for career-ending developments like diabetes and heart disease. 

Recent incidents like that of Maddie De Garay raised serious concerns for pilots who would lose their livelihoods if something even remotely similar happened to them. Garay, a 12-year-old girl from Ohio, became wheelchair dependent after participating in a voluntary vaccine trial.

Pilots protested the airline’s decision, which gained national attention. Pictures of Gadsden flags flowing from cockpit windows circulated on social media. Pilots banded together and went on strike, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations and delays. Their message was simple: “Don’t tread on us.”

Despite the pilots’ protest, SWAPA failed to petition the airline to reconsider the mandate policy, and instead filed for injunction in the federal court of North Texas. Judge Barbara Lynn, a Clinton nominee, denied the injunction request, saying:

Requiring Southwest employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will likewise improve the safety of air transportation, the efficiency of Southwest’s operations, and further the goal of safe and reasonable working conditions for pilots. In addition, because Southwest is a federal contractor, the Vaccine Policy is required by law.

During an earnings meeting last week, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that SWA would not fire any employee for not having the vaccine. This sudden change in direction from the airline may mean they could be willing to negotiate with the pilots association again. 

SWA’s policy is far more lenient than others in the industry. United Airlines, for example, was sued by six employees after their applications for exemption were denied. United and American Airlines appear to be choosing compliance with the federal government over obedience to Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order, which is supposed to stop COVID vaccine mandates.

Griffin White

After graduating high school with an associates degree in fine arts, Griffin chose to seek experience in his field of interest rather than attend university. He describes himself as a patriotic Fort Worth native with a passion for cars and guitars. He is now a fellow for Texas Scorecard.