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Some Workers Oppose Vaccination Requirements as Mandates Skyrocket

August 6, 2021 by Reece Nations
A popular spot at Walt Disney World in Florida. (Photo by Dan McCue)

Disney, Walmart and Tyson Foods are some of the most high-profile corporate entities to announce mandatory COVID-19 vaccination mandates for their employees, but not all are on board with the requirement.

On Friday, Disney and Walmart announced new policies that would require more of their respective workforces to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Meat producer Tyson Foods announced on Tuesday the company will require all workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1.

Although these companies are hoping the new policies will help drive worker safety and productivity by stifling the infection’s spread, they are taking separate paths to meet those goals.

In its announcement, Walmart officials said the new vaccine mandate would only apply to employees in its headquarters and for managers who frequently travel around the country, but not to employees in stores, clubs, and distribution and fulfillment centers. Disney’s vaccine policy will apply to all salaried and non-union hourly employees working at any of its sites in the nation.

While President Joe Biden praised these companies by name in remarks earlier in the week on the private sector’s push for COVID-19 vaccine requirements, the same requirements for federal employees have been met with opposition.

“Maintaining the health and safety of our members is of paramount importance,” the American Postal Workers Union said in a written statement. “While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent. Issues related to vaccinations and testing for COVID-19 in the workplace must be negotiated with the APWU. At this time the APWU opposes the mandating of COVID-19 vaccinations in relation to U.S. postal workers.”

APWU is an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations affiliate which represents over 200,000 United States Postal Service employees and retirees, and nearly 2,000 private-sector mail workers. The organization is comprised of over 900 state and local unions and retiree chapters in all U.S. states and territories.

Last week, the state of California and New York City announced similar vaccination requirements for all government employees who would otherwise face weekly COVID-19 testing, according to the Associated Press. On the same day, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would be the first major federal agency to require health care workers to receive the shot.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced all municipal workers will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or will be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing. In California, all state workers and millions of public- and private-sector health care employees will also be required to prove their vaccine status or face mandatory regular testing for the virus starting this month.

“We expect that the particulars of any changes to working conditions, including those related to COVID-19 vaccines and associated protocols, be properly negotiated with our bargaining units prior to implementation,” the American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a written statement. “Based on today’s announcement, it is our understanding that under President Biden’s proposal the vast majority of federal employees would not have to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, but that those who choose not to receive the vaccine may face certain restrictions.”

Kelley continued, “While we await specific proposals and anticipate the negotiation process, we encourage all of our members who are able to take advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated and help our nation put an end to this deadly pandemic.”

AFGE is the nation’s largest federal employee union and represents 700,000 federal government employees including those employed by the government of Washington, D.C. Soon, Biden said, every federal government employee and on-site contractor will be asked to certify their personal vaccination status.

Federal employees who are not vaccinated for COVID-19 or who do not certify their vaccine status will be required to wear a mask on duty no matter where they are located or their physical distance from other employees and visitors, TWN previously reported

“We believe we have an important role to play and believe the requirement for vaccinations for our leaders is key to driving toward an end to this pandemic,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a written statement. “Let’s set the example.”

Although vaccine requirements for COVID-19 for private-and-public sector workers due to the still-ongoing pandemic are novel, mandatory vaccination against other ailments is anything but. 

Immunization against meningitis became commonplace after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of “Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices” recommendations to state health officials in 1997, demonstrating the usefulness of the vaccine to contain and prevent meningitis outbreaks.

Further, laws exist on the books in states like Alaska, Arkansas, Washington state and Rhode Island that mandate administering health care workers vaccinations for hepatitis B. Immunization against measles, mumps, and rubella are also required by law in some states for health care employees, according to the CDC.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the single most effective thing we can do to protect our team members, their families and their communities,” Claudia Coplein, chief medical officer of Tyson Foods, said in a written statement. “With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce.” 

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