Federal Contractors in Various Stages of Directing Employee Vaccination

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas:
October 12, 2021 Updated: October 12, 2021

Across the nation, thousands of companies have federal contracts, collectively worth billions of dollars, but those contracts are in jeopardy.

Federal contract holders must be in full compliance with President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate by Dec. 8 to continue to be eligible to perform contract work.

While many companies have informed employees that they intend to comply with Biden’s mandate, directing workers to be vaccinated or face termination; other companies still have not had a full conversation with employees while they try to work out the finer details.

It causes uncertainty for employees who have thus far, avoided the vaccine for personal reasons ranging from religious beliefs or skepticism about the vaccine to complicated health issues.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the federal government’s rules on Biden’s vaccine mandate for private businesses are still forthcoming. She acknowledged an enforceable rule from OSHA is not here yet but couldn’t say when it will be finalized.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, (SPEEA) is a union representing engineers, technical workers, and other aerospace professionals working at the Chicago, Illinois-based Boeing Company and Spirit AeroSystems in Kansas.

Spirit has directed employees to get the vaccine, but Boeing has been less clear.

“As we wait for the final workplace directive regarding vaccines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and our employers’ implementation plans, the SPEEA Executive Board assures members communicating concerns that your union leaders are closely watching developments and ready to ensure your welfare and rights are protected,” a memo referring to Boeing on SPEEA’s website says.

“Until that final directive and our employers’ plans are announced, we don’t know how, or if, members will be adversely impacted. However, we are prepared to firmly engage our companies about their plans to implement OSHA directives and, more importantly, how our employers plan to reasonably enforce those directives while adhering to our union contracts.”

“We hear from both sides,” SPEEA Communications Director Bill Dugovich told The Epoch Times in a phone interview. “Some want us to support the mandate, some want us to fight against the mandate. We are encouraging our members to get vaccinated and adhere to the federal mandate.”

“Both companies SPEEA represents have contracts with the federal government and also make commercial airplanes,” Dugovich said. “We have people in defense and commercial, and some paths are intertwined.”

Spirit AeroSystems recently sent a letter to employees explaining that the company is dedicated to growing its defense business and that means Spirit must be compliant with Biden’s order.

By Dec. 8, all U.S.-based Spirit employees are required to be fully vaccinated in order to maintain employment with Spirit, the letter said, adding there would be accommodation due to a medical condition or religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated.

To be fully vaccinated by the Dec. 8 deadline, the first Moderna vaccine must be taken by Oct. 27; the first dose of Pfizer by Nov. 3; and the single-dose Johnson and Johnson by Nov. 24, the letter said.

Boeing did not respond to a request for comment.

Numerous contractors and their unions were unprepared to speak about the mandate with The Epoch Times and offered no comment.

A representative at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania said the facility was awaiting word from higher command within the Army about the mandate. Employees at Tobyhanna Army Depot make and repair sophisticated communication electronics for all branches of the Armed Forces.

BAE Systems is another major federal contractor. The Falls Church, Virginia-based company provides defense, aerospace, and security products for air, land, and naval forces.

“Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace and meeting customer requirements are our top priorities,” BAE Systems spokesman Tim Paynter told The Epoch Times in an email. “We intend to fully comply with the Federal Safer Workplace Task Force guidance and are working through how we would carry out its requirements.”

Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: