Detroit Carmakers Urge 153,000 Union Workers To Share Vaccination Status

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GM is set to officially open its "Factory Zero" plant near Detroit at an event with President Joe Biden
GM is set to officially open its "Factory Zero" plant near Detroit at an event with President Joe Biden

Three of Detroit’s largest automakers are calling on employees with one of the nation’s largest unions to voluntarily share their vaccination status with their employers. 

On Monday, representatives of auto giants Ford, Stellantis and General Motors met with leaders from the United Auto Workers (UAW) union to agree on a policy that would encourage the more than 153,000 unionized workers to disclose their vaccination status to their employer. In a statement shared by the UAW on Tuesday, it explained that each company would provide separate information on how, where and when to report their vaccination status. 

"One of the best ways to fight this virus is by getting as many people as possible vaccinated. The more UAW members, coworkers and their families are vaccinated and have boosters, the quicker this deadly pandemic can be vanquished," the UAW said in a statement after the meeting.

The entire process is based on voluntary participation and is not the same as the vaccine mandates implemented by firms like Ford for salaried employees. A mandate has been opposed by the UAW and its president Ray Curry absent any collective bargaining process.

Even as it avoided a vaccine mandate, the three companies together with the UAW agreed to continue its mask requirements at work sites for the time being and in line with federal public health guidelines.

The decision to push workers to get vaccinated comes at a time when cases of COVID-19’s Delta variant have ticked upwards now that the winter season has arrived. It also comes amidst legal uncertainty surrounding an ongoing battle waged by the Biden administration to restore its national vaccine mandate. 

On Nov. 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered that implementation of the administration’s vaccine mandate be halted in response to a lawsuit from five Republican-led states. In its ruling, the judges argued that the executive order was "staggeringly overbroad." 

Biden’s executive order on Sept. 9 required businesses with 100 or more employees to vaccinate their workers or require weekly testing for those who refuse. Businesses were given until Jan. 4 to come into compliance with the mandate before it was put on hold by the court.

On Nov. 12, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had to pause implementation of the new rule because of the court order freezing the mandate. The Department of Justice has since filed an appeal to unfreeze the court’s hold on implementing the policy.

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