A group of 309 pilots and flight attendants from 35 states, who work for 16 airlines, filed arguments late Monday night urging the U.S. Court of Appeals to enjoin the Transportation Security Administration from ever reissuing a Federal Transportation Mask Mandate. The filing of their friend-of-the-court brief came hours after a U.S. district judge struck down the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s order mandating masks and instructing TSA to enforce the policy in effect since Feb. 1, 2021.
“It was a wonderful surprise to hear of Judge Mizelle’s ruling yesterday that vacated CDC’s unlawful Federal Transportation Mask Mandate,” said Janviere Carlin of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, a JetBlue pilot based in Boston who coordinated the enormous amount of signatures on the amicus curiae brief filed in support of 13 flyers from nine states and the District of Columbia who brought six lawsuits challenging the TSA’s legal authority. “Despite this wonderful judgment striking down CDC’s ability to force masking, we still filed our brief in the Wall v TSA case because we are not fooled into thinking that this administration will give up so easily.”
In their 36-page brief with 17 exhibits, the airline workers argued that TSA must be permanently enjoined from ever again issuing health directives that have nothing to do with transportation security. Pilots and flight attendants told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that TSA’s mask mandate violates Federal Aviation Administration safety regulations; creates chaos in the sky, recklessly endangering aviation safety and security; the agency failed to take into account that airplane cabins pose little risk for coronavirus spread; masks pose serious health risks to humans forced to wear them, including those who work in the transport sector; and it fails to comply with Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules for face coverings.
“We are subject to the Mask Mandate every hour we are working, with an exception only for pilots on duty in the cockpit due to safety reasons,” according to the filing. “While passengers only have to endure forced masking when traveling on public transportation, we are expected to obstruct our oxygen intake nearly all the time while at work. This endangers our health and imperils aviation safety.”
The 13 petitioners, 11 of whom can’t wear masks due to medical conditions, filed their final opening brief this morning as well as a letter stating their intent to continue prosecuting the case even though TSA yesterday said it would stop enforcing the mask mandate, at least for now, while the government weighs whether to appeal.
Friendly briefs were also filed by two disabled women discriminated against by Delta Air Lines for their inability to wear masks and the Advocates for Disabled Americans.
Carlin and many other signers are members of Americans Against Mask Mandates, a coalition with 14 active lawsuits attacking the mask mandate’s legality, including those filed last month by 10 pilots and nine flight attendants.
“We will continue to fight against illegal mandates and demand accountability in our government and its agencies so that they will never forget that they work for us, we the people, not the other way around,” she said. “As airline workers commandeered by CDC and TSA to be the mask police, resulting in chaos in the sky, we have been closely following the many cases against the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate. We filed this amicus brief because the Court of Appeals case exposes that, in addition to being unsafe and necessary, the mask mandate also discriminates against Americans with disabilities who can’t tolerate having their breathing blocked. We all share the same end goal of making sure that an unelected government agency can never do this again.”
Just like CDC lacks legal authority from Congress to mandate what travelers place on their faces, the 309 pilots and flight attendants contend that “TSA’s role has always been limited to security issues, i.e. preventing intentional attack on our transportation system. The pre-eminent goal of the agency is to prevent another Sept. 11, 2001. TSA has never been granted authority or funding to conduct a general safety mission such as preventing accidents from happening – much less a public health mission.”
Petitioners in the six cases, which were filed around the country but then consolidated in Washington, ask the court to declare the TSA orders illegal and unconstitutional, vacate them immediately, and permanently enjoin TSA from ever requiring masks in the future. They argue the FTMM must be struck down because it violates the Air Carrier Access Act; the Fifth Amendment right to due process; the constitutional guarantee of freedom to travel; the 10th Amendment; TSA and CDC’s statutory and regulatory authority; the Administrative Procedure Act; the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act; and two international treaties.
“We filed this brief because we need to stand up for our rights as human beings,” said Laurie Parke of Clermont, Florida, a Delta flight attendant based in Orlando. “These masks negatively affect our job in so many ways, including our ability to work safely.”
Tammy Gipp of Las Vegas, Nevada, who is on medical leave due to her inability to wear a mask, praised yesterday’s ruling but cautioned it’s only a victory in one battle; the war against mask mandates must continue.
“We are thrilled and once again have faith in the judicial system of our country,” she said. “We are hopeful that this ruling will set precedent, but all these other cases must proceed so they too can serve as a backup to uphold our great Constitution.”
Read more and download the four briefs filed last night and this morning at www.lucas.travel.