Incentives were key to United Airlines' "extremely effective" vaccine mandate, which the vast majority of the company's 67,000 employees have complied with, save for about 2,000 who have applied for medical or religious exemptions and a few hundred more who may be fired in the coming weeks, The New York Times reports.
The success didn't occur over night — it required negotiations with United's pilots' union and flight attendants' union. Both groups were reportedly highly supportive of vaccinations, but they argued that their members should be offered incentives to get their shots before any official requirement was implemented. "The more people you get to take action on their own, the more you can focus on reaching the remaining people before any knock-down, drag-out scenario," said Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents more than 23,000 active workers at United.
And the plan seemed to work pretty smoothly. Pilots reached an agreement that would give them extra pay for getting vaccinated, while flight attendants secured extra vacation days. United also set up clinics for staff in its hub cities to improve access. Eventually, United's executives told the unions the mandate was coming one way or another, but the negotiations gave the company a head start in raising the employee vaccination rate so the end result was much less contentious than it could have been. Read more about United's process at The New York Times.