The trend of major US companies requiring workers to get vaccinated continued Friday with United Airlines, which became the first major US carrier to require its staff to be vaccinated.
The decision isn't exactly a surprise. United CEO Scott Kirby said during an interview earlier this year that he would prefer to make vaccination a requirement, so long as United wasn't alone. Now that Kirby has made his move, expect every other major carrier to announce vaccination requirements of their own.
United employees have until Oct. 25 to receive the vaccine and upload their injection record to a company database. Although that date could change, United said in a memo Friday. In mid-June, the Chicago-based airline began requiring new hires to provide proof of coronavirus vaccinations by their start date.
All US-based United employees will be required to upload a card showing they’ve received the required number of doses five weeks after the Food and Drug Administration announces it has fully approved a Covid-19 vaccine, or five weeks after Sept. 20, whichever comes first, United said. The deadline to meet the mandate is now Oct. 25, the airline said, warning employees it could move up if the agency announces its approval next month.
So far, the group of US companies requiring vaccination was limited mostly to tech giants. Microsoft, Facebook and others have announced mandatory vax plans, while others, including Amazon, Wells Fargo and plenty of other Wall Street firms have simply delayed employees' return to the office.
United's decision to join them is just the latest sign that mandatory vaccination will soon become the norm at American corporate workplaces.
For anybody wondering how this is legal, an obscure federal agency gave employers the green light to 'incentivize' workers to accept the vaccine earlier this year.
"We know some of you will disagree with this decision," Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said in the memo. "But we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: Everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated."
"Over the last 16 months, Scott has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from Covid-19," the memo continued. “We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter."
Fortunately for workers with medical or religious exemptions, United says it will try and be understanding. However, anybody seeking such an exemption will be required to provide "proof" before management decides to honor it.
It's not clear how many of United's workers are already fully vaccinated. Roughly 90% of pilots are fully vaccinated, as are nearly 80% of flight attendants.
Delta previously announced that it would require all new hires to be vaccinated, but United is the first airline to make vaccinations a blanket requirement.
And now that CNN has set the tone by firing a handful of workers who refused to get vaccinated, expect that to become the norm within a few months (once workers are finally forced to return to the workforce when children return to school and financial benefits finally run out).