A group of female United Airlines pilots have called out their own CEO, accusing him of forcing an “unreasonable, discriminatory, and retaliatory” vaccine mandate on people of faith.
In a letter Monday, the 27 pilots said that United CEO Scott Kirby violated civil rights law with the company’s draconian coronavirus vaccine mandate. The women are members of Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom, an organization with 2000-plus United Airiness employees who are fighting to protect the “right to bodily autonomy and faith-based reasonable accommodations for all employees across all industries.”
The pilots, who worked on the front lines of the pandemic for a year and a half, said that they were “astonished” to learn two and a half months ago that they were “no longer safe” to do their jobs.
“We were told we were no longer of any value to United Airlines because we merely wanted to exercise our rights codified in the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to request reasonable accommodations in lieu Scott Kirby’s vaccine mandate,” the letter states. “In other words, we want to make our own medical choices and pray to the God of our choice, the basis on which our nation was founded and many of us were willing to give our lives to defend.”
The pilots, who range from five years to 36 years in tenure, asked the United Airlines Holdings Board of Directors to intervene and prevent the “mounting” costs of “needless litigation.”
Earlier this year, United employees sued the company, and although they were denied a request for a preliminary injunction, the judge stated that “the decision was not based on the merits of their claims.”
Indeed, as the letter notes, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman said he was concerned with the company’s actions.
“To be sure, the Court is disturbed by United’s seemingly calloused approach to its employees’ deeply personal concerns with injecting a foreign substance into their bodies … United’s mandate thus reflects an apathy, if not antipathy, for many of its employees’ concerns and a dearth of toleration for those expressing diversity of thought,” wrote Pittman.
During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) confronted Kirby over the airline’s strict vaccine mandate.
Cruz said that “the way United has treated its employees is in marked contrast” to how its competitors [such as Delta and Southwest Airlines] have treated their employees. Both companies have steered clear of enforcing draconian mandates. Delta was the first airline to hold off on enforcing the Biden regime’s mandates for employees, and Southwest backed off in the face of a massive employee pushback.
“Your competitors have said they will stand with their employees. United has not made that same commitment,” Cruz noted.
In their letter, the 27 female pilots said Kirby showed disdain toward people of faith during a Flight Operations meeting in August, claiming that he “chastised” religious dissenters, and implied they were lying.
“I would encourage any pilot that’s decided they all of a sudden – or any employee – that’s all of a sudden decided I’m really religious … you’re putting your job on the line,” Kirby said during the remote meeting.
“Hearing the callousness in his voice was shocking and hurtful,” the pilots wrote.
Kirby told Cruz that his company has fired six pilots for failure to comply with the mandate and put “about 80” on unpaid leave. In total, he said, about 200 employees have been fired over the mandate.
Cruz said that according to the Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom, about 2,000 employees have been put on unpaid leave because they sought exemptions from the vaccine mandate, including 331 pilots.
The senator informed Kirby that his office has been “inundated” with complaints from United employees complaining about the company’s “callous disregard” for the rights of the pilots.
Cruz went on to describe the egregious treatment various employees have received from United.
One of the messages was from a pilot who flew for United for more than two decades, who applied for, and received an exemption from your vaccine mandate on religious grounds, and was subsequently placed on leave with no pay, and np benefits—including medical insurance. Now his wife, who relies on her husbands insurance, has had to postpone a necessary surgery with no idea of when she’ll be able to reschedule because she has no idea of when her husband will be able to fly again. And you’re simultaneously enforcing a noncompete so this pilot cannot even go work for your competitors!
Another message I received from another pilot, a constituent, self-described proud Texan, flew for the Air Force for almost three decades, including missions in Asia, now found himself on indefinite unpaid leave with a denial of all benefits to include medical, dental, vision, insurance, disability, travel privileges, crew member access to jump seats, denied access to his retirement savings. This morning, I spoke with a 10-year flight attendant for United, a woman name is Adrianna Uballe, who is a single mom, a Hispanic single mom from Texas, who you fired. She received her termination notice tied in a trash can to her front gate. I have a letter here from Ms. Uballe describing the disgraceful treatment she received at the hands of United.
The senator described United’s actions as “deeply disturbing.”
He cited the recent opinion of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Ho, who described the likelihood of United employees succeeding on the merits in their case against Kirby as “compelling and convincing at this stage.”
Judge Ho noted in his opinion that “Title Seven forbids employers from retaliating against employees who attempt to exercise their statutory rights.”
The United CEO defended the company’s strict vaccine mandate, insisting that it was imposed to ensure “safety.”
“We did this for safety,” Kirby said. “We believe it saved lives. I think that’s my number one obligation – is safety.”
In their letter, the United pilots accused Kirby of overstating the dangers of flying without being vaccinated.
“It is time for Mr. Kirby to stop claiming that he instituted his vaccine mandate for safety reasons,” they wrote.
We have all seen the DARPA studies and the public pronouncements regarding the infinitesimally small chance, less than .003%, of catching covid on one of our airplanes. As moms, we hold our children accountable for telling lies. Who is holding our CEO accountable? Even Judge Pittman saw through the CEO’s claims stating, “United’s subsequent actions in “accommodating” these employees suggest that United’s actions may not have been motivated by safety concerns. Instead, United’s actions may be viewed as merely pretextual.”
Sherry Walker, a United Airlines pilot, and the cofounder of Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom, joined “The Daily Signal Podcast” on Tuesday to talk about her efforts to push back against vaccine mandates in the airline industry.
“I cannot wake up some day in 10 years and my kid turns to me and says, ‘Mom, you had a chance to fix this and you didn’t and you left me this mess,’” Walker says. “So I’m going to fight till the end for my religious faith and that of my coworkers. And if that means that I’m done flying, I guess I have a bigger fight God put in front of me.”
In their letter, the pilots included a link to a video montage created by Airline Employees 4 Health Freedom to showcase the “faceless, forgotten employees of United Airlines.”
“They stand together for their faith and their liberty against discrimination,” said the group.