Workers at a number of businesses that contract with the federal government are planning to rebel against the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandate by remaining unvaccinated past the existing deadlines.
In a Tuesday report on what the outlet dubbed a swelling “worker rebellion,” Reuters said thousands of workers at some companies still haven’t gotten vaccinated for COVID-19, despite a looming federal deadline. Some are seeking religious or medical exemptions, while others have hired legal representation through unions or other groups.
Retuers said the deadline for being fully vaccinated as a contract worker is Dec. 8, which means that workers would have until Nov. 3 to get their first shot of a two-dose Pfizer vaccine and until Nov. 24 if they opt for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson jab.
But a report from CNBC indicates the deadline may come and go without consequence: “Senior administration officials made clear that Dec. 8 is not a hard deadline for contractors to have all of their employees fully vaccinated. Instead, contractors must demonstrate they are making a good faith effort to ensure employees are getting vaccinated and have plans in place to ensure masking and social distancing policies are followed in the workplace.”
“They’ll never get another vote from me”
According to Reuters, at aircraft companies Textron Inc. and Spirit AeroSystems in Witchita, Kansas, about half of an estimated 10,000 workers remain unvaccinated, and many have dug in their heels and become more resistant since the mandate was handed down.
“We’re going to lose a lot of employees over this,” head of the local Machinists union district Cornell Adams told Reuters.
The union is reportedly hiring lawyers to represent those who are denied exemptions, and Adams said he has changed his voting preferences as a result of the mandate.
“They’ll never get another vote from me and I’m telling the workers here the same thing,” he said, admitting he has been a lifelong Democrat until now, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, about 6% of Boeing USA’s workforce has applied for exemptions to the mandate, or around 8,000 of the plant’s 125,000 employees.
Biden softens mandate enforcement
Amid the pushback, President Joe Biden put out new guidance on Monday that left enforcement of the mandate up to the companies involved, which means that mass firings may not need to take place.
“A covered contractor should determine the appropriate means of enforcement with respect to its employee at a covered contractor workplace who refuses to be vaccinated and has not been provided, or does not have a pending request for, an accommodation,” the guidance read, according to CNBC.
It adds: “The covered contractor may still be reviewing requests for accommodation as of the time that covered contractor employees begin work on a covered contract or at a covered workplace.”