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Judge rejects challenge to Southwest's vaccine mandate

A federal judge says Southwest Airlines is within its rights to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

DALLAS — Note: The video above is from Oct. 18.

A federal judge says Southwest Airlines is within its rights to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The judge ruled this week against a request by the pilots' union to issue a temporary restraining order against a vaccine mandate. The judge says Southwest can impose a mandate to improve safety and maintain its operations. 

Southwest is asking employees to get vaccinated or apply for a medical or religious exemption by Nov. 24. But the airline has backed down from a threat to fire employees who don't comply.

Some employees were picketing last week outside the headquarters in Dallas to fight for the "right to choose" without losing their jobs.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents about 9,000 pilots, was asking a federal court judge to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the airline to move ahead with its Nov. 24 deadline for vaccinations.

The group - including some employees from other airlines - showed up with signs calling for "jobs, not jabs" and "freedom, not force."

"We are here to encourage Southwest to fight for employee freedoms, and the right to choose without losing your job,” said one employee.

Data shows that vaccine mandates are actually popular with a majority of Americans. A recent Gallup poll found 58% of Americans support Biden's COVID vaccine mandate even as many politicians, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, issue orders banning them

Southwest is just one of many airlines requiring vaccines. Dallas-based American Airlines is also requiring its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as is United Airlines.