Unvaccinated People Will Be Banned From Here, Starting Dec. 8
The newest vaccine requirement will go into effect in a month.
The coronavirus has been spreading for close to two years now, despite continuous efforts to contain it. COVID vaccines were first introduced in the U.S. nearly a year ago, which many hoped would bring about the end of the pandemic. But a slowing vaccination rate amid the rise of a faster-spreading variant created a deadly combination over the summer, resulting in yet another surge. Since then, officials have worked to improve vaccination rates. Monetary prizes and pay raises for those who got their shots were enacted by some, while others opted for vaccine mandates. Over the last few months, more and more vaccine requirements have popped up, and now, a new mandate has been set for next month.
Ford Motor will be requiring all U.S. salaried employees to be vaccinated against COVID by Dec. 8, CNBC reported. The automobile manufacturer sent a message about the mandate to its roughly 32,000 salaried employees on Nov. 2, according to the news outlet.
The company will consider religious and medical exemptions for employees. But those who remain unvaccinated and do not have an approved exemption could be put on unpaid leave with job protection for up to 30 days. A Ford spokesperson told CNN that after that time, their job protection will expire.
"The health and safety of our workforce remains our top priority and we have been very encouraged by the support of our employees to comply with our protocols," Monique Brentley, a spokeswoman for Ford, told CNBC.
Brentley told CNBC that Ford's mandate aligns with federal contractor guidelines, as parts of Ford's business fall under a federal contractor category. But on Nov. 4, the White House announced that it would be pushing the vaccination deadline for federal contractors from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4.
Other large companies fall within the federal contractor category, including many major airlines, mail carriers, and phone providers. While some companies like United Airlines and AT&T have already set their vaccination deadlines, other federal contractors might take this opportunity to extend requirements. According to CNN, some companies and business groups had been pushing the White House to delay its December deadline, as they feared it would put more stress on supply chain issues amid the holidays.
But the White House says extending the deadline was to help streamline implementation of mandates. "In order to make it easier for businesses to comply and workers to comply, we've decided to align the contractor deadline with the deadlines for both (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) CMS and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)," an official told CNN.
Workers for large companies with more than 100 employees and health care employees at facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid are now required to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 as well, according to new guidance from the White House. "While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good," President Joe Biden said in a statement on Nov. 4, per the New York Times.
Ford's mandate will not include factory workers, parts depots, and its Ford Credit financial arm, according to Brentley. Roughly 57,000 Ford employees represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union will not be covered under the new order, which falls in line with the union's stance against making vaccines mandatory for workers.
According to CNBC, other automakers have been hesitant to mandate COVID vaccines for workers in the U.S. due to a large number of unionized workers. In fact, Ford is the first major U.S. automaker to impose a vaccine mandate. General Motors and Stellantis have asked salaried employees to submit their vaccination status but neither have implemented a mandate yet. All three automakers already require their employees in Canada to be fully vaccinated however, per CNN.
"Our position continues to be that we encourage all members to get vaccinated but understand there are reasons such as health and religion that some members cannot," Brian Rothenberg, a spokesperson for the UAW, told CNN.