Workers around the United States who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 may lose their jobs. Some say they do not want the vaccine because of religious concerns. Others say the government should not control what goes into their bodies.
They are objecting to a federal mandate that requires workers from businesses with at least 100 employees to vaccinate or be tested every week. The mandate also extends to all federal employees and those working with the federal government or government-supported programs.
This week, the Biden administration said the mandate will require workers to receive either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly. Employees who test positive must be removed from the workplace.
The federal government says its vaccination requirements will apply to about 100 million Americans or two-thirds of all U.S. workers. Business and labor leaders, however, worry that it will hurt the nation’s economic recovery if thousands of workers suddenly lose their jobs.
Unvaccinated in Wichita, Kansas
In Wichita, Kansas, nearly half of the roughly 10,000 employees at aircraft companies Textron and Spirit AeroSystems remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Two Textron workers who requested religious exemptions to vaccine requirements said the company asked questions about their religious beliefs and church leaders.
Textron told the Reuters news agency that it has to follow the federal mandate. The company added that workers who are unable to receive the vaccine because of medical or religious reasons were given a chance “to request an accommodation from this requirement.”
Cornell Beard is a local labor leader. He said, "We're going to lose a lot of employees over this.” Beard said the workers did not object to the vaccine itself. But they are opposed to what they see as government control over personal health decisions.
Beard said the labor group is now hiring lawyers to help the employees. They will prepare possible legal actions if requests for medical or religious exemptions to vaccination are denied.
Is mandate legal?
Health officials said vaccines remain the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, especially with the spread of the Delta variant.
Many legal experts have said vaccine mandates in the interest of public health are legal. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected several challenges to mandates. Last week, the high court turned away a healthcare worker who sought a religious exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Still, at a recent protest near Seattle, an employee of plane-maker Boeing called it “illegal, immoral and impractical.” The worker said, "We are standing together against a company and government trampling on our rights." Some said they would retire early if they have to get the vaccine.
Massachusetts-based Raytheon makes weapons, communications systems and air security devices for the U.S. government. Its leader warned that it will lose “several thousand” employees because of the mandate. Other large companies, including FedEx and UPS, say many of their employees will not be vaccinated in time.
Mercedes-Benz, which also makes cars in the U.S., said it gave employees 90 days to get the vaccine. So far, over half of them have. The company said it expects most of its employees will meet the requirement.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
mandate – n. an official order to do something
dose – n. the amount of a medicine, drug, or vitamin that is taken at one time
positive – n. the result from a test that shows that a particular germ, condition, or substance is present
apply– v. to have an effect on someone or something
exemption– n. freedom from being required to do something that others are required to do — usually + from
accommodation – n. the act of providing an opportunity for something to happen
challenge– n. an action, statement, etc., that is against something : a refusal to accept something as true, correct, or legal — often + to
impractical – adj. not easy to do or use : not suitable for the situation
trample– v. to treat other people's rights, wishes, or feelings as if they are worthless or not important