United said while it has had discussions with its unions on the new rules it has not reached agreements with them.
A United spokesperson said the airline will consider on a case-by-case basis employees who have health or religious reasons not to be vaccinated, and that those employees will have to wear masks at all times.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” the airline said in email to staff. “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
United is also offering an additional day of pay for most employees who provide proof of vaccination by mid-September. The pay does not apply to United pilots and flight attendants already have a union-negotiated incentive to be vaccinated.
“Over the last 16 months, [CEO Scott Kirby] has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from Covid-19. We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter,” said the notice to United employees. “Together we’ll do our our part to defeat this virus.”
United has required vaccines for new employees since mid-June. But those new employees are not yet part one of the unions that represent most of the employees at the airlines.
Some 85% of United’s 85,400 employees are represented by unions.
Walmart is requiring proof of vaccination only for corporate employees, not employees in its stores. And some of those employers, such as the tech companies and banks, have few unionized employees.