(WSYM) — More companies are adopting new COVID restrictions including vaccination mandates, and that includes the auto industry here in the Motor City. It is mainly driven by the spread of the delta variant and many people are still not vaccinated.
- More Michigan businesses requiring proof of COVID vaccination in effort to combat delta spread
- FDA grants full approval to Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, opening door to more vaccine mandates
- GM required employees to confidentially report vaccination status
Ford just paused its back-to-work plan for white-collar employees for at least six months. Ford also requires employees who travel overseas for the company to be vaccinated.
The Big 3 returned to mask requirements last month for hourly workers. A full vaccination mandate could be next. But it is expected to face opposition, including from the United Auto Workers union.
"Do what I did last month, require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements," said President Joe Biden addressing the nation.
The pushback was instantaneous.
The American Federation of Government Employees immediately said:
"We expect changes to working conditions, including those related to COVID-19 vaccines and associated protocols, to be properly negotiated with our bargaining units prior to implementation."
We asked if that’s still the position of the union and were told:
"At this time we are not commenting publicly beyond our initial release."
Disney World just stuck a deal with 6 unions to impose a vaccination mandate, which would cover 43,000 Disney cast members.
When it comes to the auto industry, some express hesitation.
“If I have to get it to continue to work I guess I would have to. But at this time, I’m not vaccinated,” said Robert Colvin, a 23-year Stellantis UAW employee.
Matt Weischowski is a 23-year GM UAW employee, and he said he's against vaccines.
"I'm against vaccines because it's just too fast," he said. "I'm hoping the UAW does stand up to this."
The auto industry has already lost billions to COVID and the microchip shortage.
Vax mandates would be about the bottom line, safety, and exposing workers.
"What if I go to work and I get sick, because you the car company or supplier let somebody else come in who wasn’t vaccinated? I’m going to sue you," said John McElroy of Autoline.
General Motors tells us in a statement:
"GM encourages its employees to get vaccinated and we hope today's [FDA Pfizer] announcement may help alleviate concerns among any who have waited to get their shots."
A more open tone from Ford and Stellantis:
"Ford strongly encourages all employees who are eligible to get vaccinated. We are currently assessing whether we need to expand the requirement."
"Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated. At this time, we will not be mandating vaccines, but will continue to monitor the situation."
McElroy said he thinks it's going to come down to the public good superseding your individual right.
Employees and contractors know the stakes are high for the company and them.
"I'm actually thinking about that right now," said Weischowski. "I'm either losing my job or go on a medical disability and just walk away after 23 years."
A 5-year contract employee weighed in: "Even with the FDA approval, you really should leave it up to the individuals. I think that’s just my stance," said Paul Otto.
The new UAW president spoke Thursday, saying this must be negotiated and not be mandated for members with religious and health issues.
"I really couldn't tell you what that final product looks like because at this point we have not engaged any type of bargaining or discussion with any employer with regard to a mandate or a penalty piece," said UAW President Ray Curry.
He said they are not tracking how many members have gotten vaccinated or asking to see their vaccination cards. He also noted there have been no major outbreaks of COVID affecting any Big 3 auto plants.