With the Biden administration having announced that it will start forcing companies to vaccinate their employees, automakers and the UAW find themselves in a sticky situation. The unions had previously said they wished not to endorse or oppose mandatory vaccinations until they discussed things with the industry and their own members. Considering Joe Biden said he would not make vaccines mandatory less than 10 months ago, employers get caught with their pants around the proverbial ankles.
Automakers had previously polled white-collar workers to see what they wanted to do while increasing COVID restrictions on the spot, but operating under the impression that any tough decisions were likely far away and left to their own discretion. Now, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is planning a new standard that requires all employers with 100 (or more) employees to ensure their workforce is fully immunized or to require that any unvaccinated worker produces a negative test result at least once a week.
Employers who fail to implement the stated requirements could face fines of up to $ 14,000 per violation, according to the White House, the penalties also doubling for those who refuse to wear masks during interstate travel. These are potentially high fees when you are in the thousands of employees. Union officials said they were considering the issue without committing to more than absolutely necessary – although the UAW has formally opposed vaccine requirements in the past.
“The UAW has encouraged and continues to strongly encourage all members and their families to get immunized, unless there are specific health or religious concerns. We know this is the best way to protect our members, colleagues and their families.
We take a look at the details of yesterday’s announcements and the impact on our members and over 700 employer contracts.
In the meantime, we continue our members’ commitment to practice safety at each of our work sites by following protocols, including masks, disinfection, and reporting any exposure or symptom of the virus. At the UAW, we all understand that fighting this pandemic and protecting our families is key to our survival. “
Assuming the union ultimately decides to approve the vaccine decree, it is likely to fracture its membership. Although I am hardly against vaccinations, I strongly support informed consent and speaking candidly about it has led auto workers to frequently confess that they are also opposed to forced vaccinations. Many said they would quit their jobs immediately, corresponding to a recent Washington post survey claiming 70% of unvaccinated workers would simply quit their jobs whether vaccination warrants are instituted. I guess the industry will experience a sudden and catastrophic staff shortage if it goes ahead with the Biden plan.
Automakers have also been evasive, with automakers (including Ford, GM, Stellantis, Honda and Toyota) saying they are encouraging staff to get vaccinated and want to adhere to all government-issued health protocols. But they generally avoid addressing the Biden plan directly, perhaps indicating some reluctance. That said, it hasn’t even been a full day since the vaccine’s mandate was announced and their HR and legal departments are probably wringing their hands as they consider what needs to be done and the fallout that could create.
Every statement the automakers have been prepared to make so far can be paraphrased as “wait … we have to think about it” followed by a paragraph on how they believe in vaccinations and want to adhere to the recommendations of the experts in the world. health concerns. . Conversely, very little has been said about the rights or preferences of their employees.
I’m not going to beat around the bush. The whole premise of these mandates seems insane to me, bordering on the bad guy. As an American, I have always believed that the whole premise of the country was based on the shared belief that personal freedoms and freedom of choice trump anything else. But that no longer seems to be what comes from above. The rhetoric used by Joe Biden is extremely confrontational, including statements such as “we have been patient, but our patience is running outAs he made sweeping claims about how the unvaccinated stifles national unity and progress. He also confusedly stated that vaccinated workers must be ‘protected’ from unvaccinated.
Assuming vaccines are effective, shouldn’t it be otherwise? What exactly are we protecting people from when new strains keep showing up, can still spread among the vaccinated, and the shots we have now target older COVID variants that have lost momentum?
The economic and social stress that this is likely to impose on the industry and the country as a whole will be simply monumental. Protests erupted across the world all summer. Truckers have started to organize in many countries and have refused to deliver to areas with strict COVID rules, worsen food shortages in urban areas. In the United States, the same is true of cities that have chosen to define policing. Now they’re starting to talk about strikes focused on vaccines and masks mandates while they are already experiencing a serious shortage of drivers. Imagine if this spills over to an automotive industry already besieged by semiconductor shortages, their suppliers, and every other industry you rely on.
[Image: Michael Vi/Shutterstock]
Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC plugs and everything else that gets the truth about cars first by by subscribing to our newsletter.