CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – As planes were taking off from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport on Saturday, pilots who fly for major airlines and others were protesting vaccine mandates below.
The rally put on by the group US Freedom Flyers was organized to express their stand against the most recent vaccine requirements from the Biden administration for companies with 100 or more workers.
The requirement says workers can get vaccinated by Jan. 4 or submit to weekly COVID testing.
“We’re out here today because we’re tired of the mandate. We’re tired of being told that our bodies are not ours,” said Artemis Coburn, a pilot for a major airline. “It just comes down to enough is enough, and we’re going to make a stand, and this is our stand.”
Pilots, like Coburn, could not reveal which airlines they flew for because it would violate their contract.
On Saturday afternoon, the vaccine requirement was temporarily halted by a federal appeals court. If it stays, some say they’ll walk from their jobs, which is a blow that could be devastating for an airline industry already suffering from severe staff shortages that have caused thousands of flights to be canceled.
WJZY asked one pilot if he’d walk from his job if the vaccine requirements ended up being enforced.
“I am…hese people you see here, they are. If it actually comes down to that, it’s going to be catastrophic for the airline industry,” said Joshua Yoder, co-founder of US Freedom Flyers. “They can’t afford to lose 10% of their people, much less 20-30% across the various workgroups.”
Yoder says those percentages are estimates of how many disagree with the mandate in the industry for varying reasons such as religious beliefs or lack of long-term data.
Just this past week, CDC Director Rochelle Walenksy defended the research.
“Data shows again and again that vaccines work, they are safe, and they can save your life,” Walensky said.
Despite the research, the group says it’s about choice.
“Our governments, our companies, our union, and even a lot of our fellow employees, are not defending freedom, so we have to fill in the void,” said Robert Soudher, co-founder of US Freedom Flyers.