The White House was asked about the massive numbers of flight cancellations from Southwest Airlines over the weekend, which was preceded by the filing of a lawsuit by Southwest pilots in protest of the company's vaccine mandate. Many have speculated that the cancellations were as a result of a walk-out by pilots and air traffic controllers, but the White House said unequivocally that it was not.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about President Joe Biden's relationship to labor unions, and if there could be some strain between him and his long-time supporters as a result of Biden's pressure on workers to be vaccinated.
"There are people who say that the President should be pressuring unions to loosen work restrictions that are keeping for instance truck drivers limited on their hours behind the wheel or these ports operating at less than full capacity. What's the White House answer to that?" Psaki was asked.
"I would say we have taken steps at times, when warranted to loosen restrictions, as you as you saw in reaction to some natural disasters we've had over the course of the year. Ultimately the President's focus is addressing the needs, the challenges and the threats to the American people have to their well being to their economic well being. And he'll consider a range of options but again, the supply chain Task Force has been working for months to address these issues."
"What's his answer. What's the White House response to people who say that same mandates have reduced the workforce and contributed to this problem?"
"Well I know a world renowned business travel and health expert Senator Ted Cruz has made that point," Psaki joked. "But I wouldn't say that that is widely acknowledged or echoed by business leaders who have implemented these mandates."
"It doesn't mean this isn't hard and challenging, of course it is—we're in the middle of a global pandemic, but ultimately the job of the President of the United States is to lead is to follow the advice of health experts, is to ensure that he is protecting the lives of people across the country.
"So I know there was a little hubbub over the course of the last few days about Southwest Airlines, we now know that some of those claims were absolutely false and actually the issues were completely unrelated to vaccine mandates, but again what we've seen, business to business across the country, is this is the way to save lives, create more certainty, it's good for the economy, and it's something we're looking forward to implementing," Psaki said.
Another reporter followed up on the vaccine mandates and union workers, asking
about "the President's long relationship with labor unions of various types. And in that community, whether they're professional athletes in the labor union or law enforcement, there are some people who are speaking out against the vaccine mandates and one of the things they're saying is it should be a part of collective bargaining. How does the President view that when it comes to these requirements?"
"Do you know the President is a huge supporter throughout his lifetime in public office for labor unions," Psaki said, "the roles they play for collective bargaining, for the role they play in standing up for workers, workers rights. I would note though we're in the middle of a pandemic here.
"And what we're trying to do is we're trying to save more lives without delay, understanding there is a process for rule-making, as there should be, but we're working to implement these as quickly as we can so that businesses can have certainty so that workers can have certainty so that people can return to the workplace who are fearful, so that we can work to return to a to closer, to a period of closer to normal.
"So, he always welcomes the input the views of labor unions, and certainly has heard their concerns in this regard, but, but I think it's also important to remember, we're in the middle of a pandemic," Psaki said.