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Southwest, American Airlines maintain vaccine mandates despite Texas governor's order

Southwest, American Airlines maintain vaccine mandates despite Texas governor's order
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines on Tuesday said they will maintain their vaccine mandates for employees despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order stating vaccines must be voluntary. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Southwest Airlines and American Airlines will continue to require employees to be vaccinated against the pandemic in line with federal orders, the Texas-based carriers said a day after Gov. Greg Abbott barred all private companies from issuing vaccine mandates.

The airlines made their announcements Tuesday after the Republican governor issued an executive order Monday, stating the COVID-19 vaccine "should remain voluntary and never enforced."

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Abbott's order follows President Joe Biden announcing last month vaccine mandates for federal workers and businesses with a workforce of 100 or more employees.

Southwest Airlines told UPI in a statement that as a federal contractor it will be expected to comply with the federal order, which "supersedes" any state mandate or law.

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"We will continue to follow all orders closely and keep our employees updated on any potential changes to existing policies," the company said.

American Airlines issued a similar statement to The New York Times, stating that it believes "the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws."

"This does not change anything for American," the spokeswoman told The Times.

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Both companies have ordered their employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8, citing Biden's order.

During a press conference Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki accused Abbot of "putting politics ahead of public health" with his order against mandates.

"Nothing in this guidance excuses noncompliance with any applicable state law or municipal ordnance," she said, adding the question business leaders have to ask themselves is "what do you want to do to save more lives in your company?"

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She said Biden has the legal authority to order the vaccine mandates and his administration is working to get more people vaccinated in order to end the pandemic.

"The president will use every lever at his disposal to do that," she said.

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