Delta says they’ll hit 95% employee vaccination next month, and they’ll consider religious and medical exemptions, so they expect to have “1% or 2%” of their employees left without either. CEO Ed Bastian refuses to say what happens to those employees come December 8, a deadline the Biden administration has set for government contractors to hit 100% compliance. But Bastian emphasized that they’re getting this done “without a mandate.”
On CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning he said,
I think the spirit of the vaccine mandate was to get people vaccinated, it wasn’t to try to force people with the threat of their jobs if companies are doing the right thing.
Is Bastian saying that 98% will be good enough and the Biden administration will blink?
I’ve actually expected that the December 8 deadline will push, but not until we get close, because if major airlines are far off from compliance the Biden administration won’t want to be blamed for ruining holiday travel due to mass cancellations.
They’ll need a reason for the delay, of course, that isn’t this. They will want to declare victory, or offer an extension on technical grounds. This will be especially tough to avoid if Covid-19 prevalence in the U.S. is low overall as the end of November approaches.
The OSHA mandate, which just dropped, doesn’t have nearly the legal certainty behind it that requiring vaccination for government contract eligibility appears to. The strategy here, too, seems to be just like extending the CDC eviction moratorium after the Supreme Court was clear that it was not supported by statutory authority. In other words, use it as a tool to encourage vaccination – and by the time courts have had a chance to weigh in, it will have done its job.