Republicans Blame Vaccine Mandates For Southwest Airline Cancellations Because Facts Are For Commies

Conspiracy theories

If you have any experience with commercial air travel, you'd know that weather is an asshole. Southwest Airlines canceled 1,800 flights over the weekend due to a combination of bad weather and a staffing shortfall. However, that's only what Southwest Airlines said, which is different from what Republican politicians and conservative pundits would like to believe. They insist the cancellations are because of President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate. There's no actual evidence of this, mind you, but Republicans are masters of Big Lies so they had no trouble promoting this medium-sized one.

Southwest Airlines announced last Monday that it must comply with the federal government's vaccine mandate or risk losing contracts. That's a reasonable business decision that's also good for public health. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed a lawsuit Friday against the vaccine mandate. The SWAPA stressed that it's not “anti-vaccination" but that the mandate imposes new conditions of employment that unilaterally altered the union's collective bargaining agreement. The condition of employment is pretty much “don't spread COVID-19 to our passengers," but we still support unions here.

Donald Trump's first failed attempt at reproduction tweeted Monday that "the fact that thousands of Southwest employees walked off the job protesting the COVID vaccine mandate forcing the airline to cancel more than 1000 flights is not getting enough attention."

This was not a fact but it did get a lot of attention.


Noted straight shooter and reasonable person Tucker Carlson declared that anti-vaccine mandate sickouts were responsible for the weekend's cancellations.

CARLSON: This weekend, in protest, a large number of Southwest pilots called out sick and they effectively shut down their airline. And many of them, you should know, admire the company they work for. They love Southwest Airlines, but they felt they had no choice but to do this. The pilots committed the most basic act of nonviolent civil disobedience, something we used to celebrate in this country. They stayed home.

Sure, we celebrate nonviolent civil disobedience if we're talking about readers of this blog, but Carlson and his ilk have never supported, let alone celebrated, peaceful protest. He opposed NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, calling it an “attack on our country."

And since when did Republicans like unions and strikes? Their Patron Saint Ronald Reagan fired 13,000 air traffic controllers who went on strike in the summer of 1981. He gave them 48 hours to get back to work, while Southwest Airline employees have another two months to protect themselves from a highly contagious and deadly disease.

I don't know why we'd expect better of Ted Cruz than Tucker Carlson, as they're both professional liars, but the "West Wing" fan in me was still surprised that a sitting US senator would tweet outright falsehoods. Here's what Cruz said Sunday: “Joe Biden's illegal vaccine mandate at work! Suddenly, we're short on pilots and air traffic controllers."

CNBC reporter Leslie Josephs responded, “Hi, Senator. I wrote that article. Where did you hear that there is a shortage due to the vaccine mandate?" She politely asked him back up his claims rather than simply calling him a filthy liar who looks funny, like I just did.

Cruz was like nu-uh, I did so read the article, and offered an out-of-context quote from the union: “All of these challenges have led to an added distraction in the cockpit ... This week's COVID-19 vaccine mandate announcement by the Company only exacerbates the situation."

Yes, Cruz is siding with a union over a corporation's business decision because he thinks it makes Joe Biden look bad. Cruz — along with most of the GOP — has previously accused teachers unions of prioritizing their own interests (i.e. not dying from COVID-19) over children's education. He's also derided restaurant workers who wouldn't return to the COVID-19 salt mines.

Before we move on, please enjoy this clip of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dunking on Cruz.

Cruz's fellow seditionist Andy Biggs from Arizona also promoted the lie that Southwest employees were in open revolt against the vaccine mandate. Southwest's problems are directly related to operational challenges, specifically that the airline doesn't use a traditional “hub and spoke" system like other airlines, so weather delays can have a devastating cascade effect. However, Axios still linked the weekend debacle to the vaccine mandate, reporting that “the cancellations began after Southwest pilots asked a court to block the airline's new vaccine mandate."

Ben Wakana from the White House COVID-19 response team quickly pointed out that the Southwest pilots' own statement dispelled the myth. SWAPA President Casey Murray said on Sunday:

There are false claims of job actions by Southwest Pilots currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news. I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise. Under the RLA [Railway Labor Act negotiations], our Union is forbidden from taking job action to resolve labor disputes under these circumstances. SWAPA has not authorized, and will not condone, any job action.

The pilots would have no reason to claim otherwise if their intent was to protest the mandate with a sickout.

Wakana also explained to Axios that correlation doesn't equal causation. He quipped: “The cancellations also happened after Sox beat the Yankees but that had nothing to do with it either."

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary C. Kelly went on "Good Morning America" for a ritual mea culpa and said there was no “vaccine walkout," but he also said that no one would get fired over the mandate, which makes it more of a suggestion.

We're urging all of our employees to get vaccinated. If they can't get vaccinated, we're urging them to seek an accommodation, so we'll do everything we can to support our people here.

There are few if any legitimate religious exemptions and most accommodations, such as providing regular proof of negative test, are less efficient than the vaccine and would likely result in further delays and cancellations. No one wants to fly Air COVID.

[Washington Post]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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