A group of around 30 protested the president’s vaccine mandate that requires all federal contractors, including BIW, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

About 30 people gathered outside Bath Iron Works and the Local S6 union hall on Washington Street in Bath Saturday to protest the president’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, including BIW’s shipbuilders.

Less than half of the protesters were BIW employees. Many of the protesters said they’re not against the vaccine itself and don’t care if others get it, but they dislike the government making them choose between getting the vaccine or leaving their jobs.

“There are too many questions about the vaccine, too many people getting side effects, and I don’t feel I should be forced to take something that I don’t feel comfortable putting in my body,” said Jim Hegan, a BIW maintenance worker. “It just feels wrong. I feel it should be a personal choice; if you want to get the vaccine, great, but if you don’t want to, that’s fine.”

BIW insulator Hunter Wolf agreed, adding COVID-19 “can’t possibly be as bad as they want us to believe.”

“Some people just have really strong immune systems,” Wolf said. “My grandpa has had everything — heart attack, stroke, asthma, kidney failure. You look at him and think ‘If he gets COVID-19, he’ll be dead. He got it and got through it in three days.”

The group assembled along Washington Street in Bath in front of both the shipyard and the Local S6 union hall. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

According to a statement the Biden Administration released Nov. 4, federal contractor employees like BIW shipbuilders “will need to have their final vaccination dose – either their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or single dose of Johnson & Johnson – by January 4, 2022.”


BIW does not have the option to allow unvaccinated employees to be tested for COVID-19 each week instead of getting the inoculation because the shipyard builds ships for the Navy, making it a federal contractor. Workers can, however, request a medical or religious exemption to the mandate.

Both Hegan and Wolf said they are prepared to leave their jobs over the mandate, but Hegan said he first plans to file a request for a medical exemption.

“I was raised Catholic and I know there were stem cells used in the production and manufacturing of the vaccines,” said Hegan.

Cell lines obtained from past abortions were used to test certain COVID-19 vaccines, according to a report from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. None of the COVID-19 vaccines, however, contain any human cells.

The Vatican’s doctrine office has said it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses, the Associated Press reported. Pope Francis has said it would be “suicide” not to get the jab and both Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

Many protesters said they weren’t against the vaccine, but rejected the government making them choose between getting the vaccine and keeping their jobs. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Meanwhile, the Local S6 union, which represents over half of BIW’s 7,400 employees, stated it is “not against vaccines” but “disagrees with the vaccine mandate” in an announcement to members last month.


The shipyard has declined to answer questions from The Times Record on how many workers might walk away from their jobs rather than get vaccinated, how many employees have already left their jobs over the mandate, how many have applied for religious or medical exemptions, as well as the company’s contingency plan.

Hegan said he believes many shipbuilders will quit their jobs rather than get vaccinated, which would spell trouble for the company and its efforts to both increase its workforce and boost production.

“They’re having a hard time keeping people right now,” Hegan said of the Bath shipyard. “If they lose even 40% of their people, they’re going to be in bad shape. They won’t be able to make their contracts and they’ll lose their contracts. That will turn this whole place into a ghost town.”

As of Saturday, just under 80% of eligible Mainers were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

Since the pandemic reached Maine in March 2020, 107,772 people across the state have tested positive and 1,207 Mainers have died as of Saturday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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