Workers of the World, Unite . . . Against Vaccine Mandates
Last weekend, Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights.
In a tweet, the airline maintained that the cancellations were due to air traffic control "issues" and disruptive weather.
But the word on the street was that employees walked off the job in a wildcat strike to protest a COVID-19 vaccine requirement that Southwest recently announced it’s forcing on its employees.
The timing of the flight cancellations lent credibility to these rumors.
Not only did no other airline suffer from weather-related service interruptions, but the grounded flights happened at the same time that the Southwest Airline Pilots Association – the carrier’s pilots’ union – filed a request in federal court seeking to halt enforcement of a vaccine mandate that Southwest had announced just four days earlier.
Southwest and the union have denied that employees called in sick to harm the airline’s weekend operations.
But there’s every reason to believe that Southwest’s employees staged a walkout to protest intrusions on their rights under U.S. labor law – and that more instances like it are on their way.
Biden’s Executive Order
In early September, President Biden issued an executive order requiring that all new federal contracts direct contractors to comply with safety standards promulgated by the Safer Federal Workplace Taskforce. One of these standards is that all federal contractors and their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Southwest contracts with the federal government to fly the military in emergencies and to transport mail for the U.S. Postal Service on its passenger flights.
Southwest thus declared that because of the EO, all of its workers had to be vaccinated by November 24, and submit proof of vaccination or be terminated.
Ignoring Organized Labor
Southwest’s employees are unionized, and their working conditions, rules, and pay are governed by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, between the company’s labor and management.
The law does not allow management to unilaterally change the terms of the CBA. Indeed, by federal statute, airline carriers must participate in collective bargaining with their workers – they can’t just steamroll over them.
But that’s exactly what Southwest seems to have done.
In its court filing, the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association asserted that, throughout the pandemic, the carrier’s management repeatedly "acted unilaterally" and "refused to bargain" with them. And, on October 4, it "hurriedly dumped" the vaccine mandate on the company’s workers without any negotiation or agreement by the pilots’ union.
To be sure, COVID-19 is a serious matter, but the pandemic did not obviate Southwest’s management’s statutory duty to bargain with its workers’ unions. At a bare minimum, the company was obligated to bargain over when and how to implement the mandate.
And this problem is not limited to Southwest Airlines. Across a variety of industries, collective bargaining rights are being sacrificed at the altar of vaccine hysteria, as workers are being forced to choose between getting vaccinated and losing their jobs – an abridgement of the "just cause" termination standard ubiquitous to CBAs.
Democrat-run states and cities are among the worst offenders. Just take a look at what’s happening with teachers, healthcare workers, cops, corrections officers and firefighters from New York to Hawaii. In many of these cases, the government has simply imposed vaccine requirements unilaterally without negotiating with the relevant unions.
The establishment media, with their leftwing affinities, have given full-throated support to companies and governments that force their workers to get jabbed. One publication went so far as to call striking Southwest employees "domestic terrorists."
Boardrooms and bureaucrats count on such spin to sway public opinion in their favor as they stomp on bargained-for rights.
This might-makes-right approach is a slap in the face to unions. That it’s being done in the name of progressive dogma, at the direction of left-leaning elected officials, and with the support of an overwhelming majority of Democrats is sure to gall labor’s rank and file, which – until now – has been a reliable Democratic Party constituency.
Further, as pilots, truck drivers, rail workers and longshoremen – all of whom work in industries that are subject to the federal vaccine mandates – are placed on leave or terminated for refusing to get inoculated, the resultant worker shortages will compound supply chain problems and worsen the already inflationary economy.
Putting people in the unemployment line and then jacking up the cost of living will hardly endear the party of FDR to the working class.
Moreover, vaccine mandates have created a credibility crisis for Democrats.
While Biden maintains that he wants to improve our country’s physical infrastructure to create jobs and boost our national economy, his vaccine mandates are working at cross purposes, draining employees from the very companies that rely on our nation’s roads, bridges, airports, and railways and forcing them to operate without sufficient staff to meet their customers’ needs.
The élan with which Democrats are willing to punish those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine by stripping them of their livelihoods exposes the party’s claimed concern about "human infrastructure" as a feint.
This is not how to build trust, and it is definitely not how to build back better.
As more employers leapfrog the collective bargaining process and unilaterally impose vaccine mandates on their labor force, workplace slowdowns, sickouts and walkouts will become more frequent.
These job actions – which the Twitterverse has dubbed the "freedom flu" – are contagious.
Indeed, it was no coincidence that while Southwest was scuttling hundreds of flights, Amtrak trains were also being cancelled due to "unforeseen crew issues."
The left’s enthusiasm for disregarding the rights of organized labor will leave a bitter taste with unions that will remain long after the pandemic has passed.
But Democrats rarely consider the long term consequences of their actions.
If only there were a vaccine for that.
Ameer Benno is an experienced civil rights and constitutional law attorney. He is the founder and principal of Benno & Associates P.C., an appellate and civil rights law firm in New York City. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University and Cornell Law School, Ameer is a former Manhattan prosecutor and congressional candidate. He is a contributor and legal analyst for Newsmax Television. Read more here.
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