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October 26, 2021

BIW faces potential loss of workers as vaccine deadline looms

File Photo / William Hall Bath Iron Works faces the potential loss of some workers if they refuse to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Bath Iron Works, like other federal contractors, faces a Dec. 8 mandate for getting all workers vaccinated against COVID-19 — and the potential firing or furlough of employees who refuse to get the shot. 

Once the mandate kicks in, BIW and its unions will negotiate what happens to unvaccinated workers, whether they are fired, furloughed or utilized in another capacity, said Tim Suitter, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local S6.
BIW declined to comment.

BIW employs 7,400 workers. The machinists union, the largest at BIW, represents about 4,800 workers. 

As many as 30% of the union, or about 1,440 workers, are estimated to be unvaccinated so far. Suitter said that’s only a rough guess and exact numbers are not yet available.

Unlike private employers with more than 100 workers, federal contractors don’t have the option to test workers weekly. Instead, employees must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 under President Joe Biden’s mandate.

With a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a person can be fully vaccinated in two weeks. That gives workers until about Nov. 24 to get vaccinated in order to meet the deadline.

The union said it understands that it’s not BIW mandating the vaccine, but instead it’s a federal mandate. Still, the union believes it should be a personal choice.

“We don’t want to see anyone lose their job over it,” Suitter said. “BIW is being forced to enforce it. They are doing the right things about getting awareness out there. But we believe it should be a personal choice someone makes with their primary care physician and family.”

More than 75 union workers held a demonstration in the shipyard on Friday, protesting the mandate. The hostility is with the federal government, not the shipbuilder, Suitter said.

The timing of the mandate would be difficult for BIW, which has been working to get its shipbuilding pace back on track in the wake of a production backlog and union strike last year. Losing workers due to the vaccine mandate would be another hiccup for BIW, which is owned by General Dynamics (NYSE: GD). 

Bath Iron Works has made COVID-19 vaccinations and flu shots available at the shipyard, Suitter said. 

The mandate and the fate of the workers has drawn attention from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who said she believes in the efficacy of the vaccine, but not the mandate itself.
“Throughout the pandemic, the shipbuilders at BIW showed up to work — both before and after the vaccines became available — because they are essential to our national security,” Collins said in a statement.

“I think it’s wrong for the federal government to take away the livelihood of some of those exact same experienced shipbuilders today, especially when BIW is already having difficulty hiring a sufficient number of workers.
“As I’ve said many times before, I believe in the efficacy of the vaccines. They have proven to be safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Federal mandates, however, are unlikely to give unvaccinated Americans more confidence in the shot. The best and most trusted advisors in this area are doctors and other health care providers,” Collins said. 
In March 2020, union leaders at BIW demanded the shipbuilder’s parent company respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by closing the yard and sending workers home at full pay. The shipyard remained opened and faced several COVID-19 outbreaks.

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October 29, 2021
Stand up for your principles and rights. The unfortunate is that the mandate does NOT allow testing OR evidence of natural immunity. Nor does it take unto consideration that this vaccines protection is waning quickly and that it doesn't prevent the vaccinated from spreading the disease. Its a failed policy and ultimately will severely impact our jobs our source lines and the way people financially support themselves.
October 26, 2021

Show consideration for your fellow worker. Get the vaccine.

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