US Workers Face Job Losses as COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Kick In

By Reuters
October 20, 2021 Updated: October 20, 2021

Thousands of unvaccinated workers across the United States are facing potential job losses as a growing number of states, cities, and private companies start to enforce mandates for inoculation against COVID-19.

In the latest high-profile example, Washington State University (WSU) fired its head football coach and four of his assistants on Monday for failing to comply with the state’s vaccine requirement. The coach, Nick Rolovich, had applied for a religious exemption from the mandate earlier this month.

Thousands of police officers and firefighters in cities like Chicago and Baltimore are also at risk of losing their jobs in the coming days under mandates that require them to report their vaccination status or submit to regular coronavirus testing.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been battling with the police union, which came out against the vaccine mandate for city workers. About a third of the city’s 12,770 police employees missed a Friday deadline to report their vaccination status, and some officers have been put on no-pay status.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police union president John Catanzara did not respond to a request for comment.

The White House has announced sweeping vaccine requirements and has been a major catalyst behind the inoculation push.

On Friday, some 200 Boeing Co. employees and others staged a protest over the planemaker’s requirement that 125,000 workers be vaccinated by Dec. 8, under an executive order issued by President Joe Biden for federal contractors.

The rules for another order applying to private businesses with 100 or more employees are expected to be finalized soon.

Along with the mandate for federal workers and contractors, Biden’s vaccine requirements will cover roughly 100 million people, about two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.

The White House has been meeting with executives of several major companies to discuss Biden’s private-sector vaccination plan.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was worried about a possible shortage of Transportation Security Administration agents gumming up air travel during the year-end holiday season. With 40 percent of the agency’s staff not yet vaccinated and Thanksgiving just over a month away, Schumer suggested security dogs could be added to help cover any shortfall.

Vaccination Reshuffling

A wave of layoffs has already swept through the health care industry, which moved more quickly than others to impose vaccine mandates.

Nurses and other health care workers who chose to leave their jobs rather than get the vaccine recently told Reuters they could not get past their concern over a lack of long-term data on the three vaccines available in the United States.

Like WSU’s Rolovich, many unvaccinated workers looking to avoid the shots have done so by seeking religious exemptions, which are being tested in several courts.

School leaders said the mandate was aimed at ensuring the safety of its faculty and staff.

“Experience is showing that vaccine mandates help motivate people to complete the vaccination process,” Marty Dickinson, WSU Board of Regents Chair, said in a statement.

The mandates are causing staffing concerns across various industries, and some companies are taking steps to reassure workers that their requests for medical or religious exemptions will be given serious consideration.

Southwest Airlines told its employees on Friday that it would allow the unvaccinated to continue working, rather than being placed on unpaid leave, if their exemption requests have not been evaluated by the Dec. 8 deadline.