U.S. aerospace manufacturer Boeing will require all of its employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by December 8 or face possible termination, the Seattle Times reported October 12. Reporters at the Washington paper cited an internal company presentation with the news, which has been corroborated by union statements.
In the presentation, Boeing said the mandate is necessary for the company to comply with September’s vaccinate-or-test OSHA rule, which requires private businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested weekly for the pandemic virus. As of this January, Boeing employed 141,000 employees in the United States including subsidiaries, about 40% of them in Washington state.
Boeing, a federal contractor, leaves the option to get tested weekly open only to those with relevant disabilities or a “sincerely held religious belief.” Any employee who gets such an exemption will have to be able to provide a recent negative COVID-19 test result on request, the presentation said.
The Seattle Times article on the mandate follows an October 12 statement by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace that the union, which represents some Boeing employees, is discussing mandate implementation with employers.
“SPEEA is talking with employers to ensure implementation gives proper consideration to members’ concerns, health issues and abides by the provisions of our negotiated contracts,” the SPEEA statement said, before encouraging workers to receive the vaccine and noting that the mandate stems from employers’ compliance with federal rules. “Members with legitimate health and/or religious reasons preventing them from being vaccinated are encouraged to apply for the appropriate exemption,” the union added.
While the SPEEA said “the vast majority of members we are hearing from are vaccinated,” the same may not be true for Boeing’s other employees, who are represented by the International Association of Machinists.
In a statement October 12, the IAM said they would “demand” to bargain the effects of the mandate and said they would investigate denied exemption requests on a case-by-case basis. The AP reports that Jon Holden, President of IAM District 751, wrote in October that union membership is “polarized” on the issue, and that it is the union’s responsibility to “defend and advocate” for all members, including “those who can’t or won’t accept the vaccine.”
Boeing may also run into trouble in some of the states in which it operates. The company has more than 5,000 employees in Texas, where Governor Abbott has issued an executive order barring private companies from mandating vaccines.