CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – 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 take a stand against the most recent requirements from the Biden administration for companies with 100 or more workers. The rule requiring vaccinations by Jan. 4 or weekly COVID testing is temporarily on hold after a U.S. appeals court issued a stay on Saturday.
“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.
Some say they’ll walk from their jobs if it’s allowed to go into effect, 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.
We asked one pilot if he’d walk from his job if the vaccine requirements ended up being enforced.
“I am and these 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. “I mean they can’t afford to lose 10 percent of their people, much less 20-30 percent 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 though Rochelle Walenksy, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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 though 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, that’s why we exist,” said Robert Soudher, co-founder of US Freedom Flyers.