A federal judge stalled President Biden’s requirement for all federal contractors, including Bath Iron Works shipbuilders, to be vaccinated by early January, but the Bath shipyard hasn’t said a word about how the potential mandate might affect its 7,000 strong workforce.

The Bath shipyard, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, declined to answer questions Thursday regarding how many of its had been or were getting vaccinated and how many employees have quit over the requirement. They also declined to say how many might be fired if the mandate goes through and they continue to refuse the vaccine.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker of Georgia, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, halted Biden’s vaccine requirement for federal contractors in response to lawsuits from several contractors and seven states, The Associated Press reported.

“The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe,” Baker wrote, according to Associated Press reports. “However, even in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”

Despite its suspension, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing Tuesday said the Justice Department would continue to defend the mandate.

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.”

Advertisement

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.

The shipyard on Thursday declined to answer questions about how Baker’s ruling trickles down to the shipyard, 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.

Prior to Biden’s vaccine mandate, the company “highly encouraged” workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to BIW’s website.

The shipyard’s Local S6 union, which represents more than half of the workforce, also didn’t return requests for comment Thursday on how the shipyard is handling the president’s vaccine mandate or what Baker’s ruling will mean for unvaccinated shipbuilders. In previous announcements to members, however, the union has stated it’s “not against vaccines” but “disagrees with the vaccine mandate.”

“We are pro-choice,” Local S6 leaders wrote in the Oct. 19 announcement. “We also believe the vaccine is good for public health and safety. However, we must stand and protect our membership’s jobs as best as we can. … Forcing our members to choose between their beliefs or their livelihood is unfair.”

In the same announcement, the union indicated the company could lose about 30% of its workforce over the mandate.

Advertisement

The shipyard now employees about 7,400 and is in the midst of a years-long hiring push to both compensate for a surge of retiring workers and increase production speeds. Losing 30% of its workforce would reverse the nearly 2,800 and employees hired and trained from 2019 to 2020.

Brian Osier, a BIW marine electrician of 32 years, said he’s unconvinced a third of the company’s workforce will quit or be terminated

“I haven’t heard of anyone quitting because of it,” said Osier. “Are people going to give up a good-paying job just because they don’t want to get a shot? I don’t get it.”

BIW machinist Darren Lilly and pipe welder Thomas Day each said they know of two employees who quit because they weren’t willing to get vaccinated.

“There have been people quitting, which I don’t get myself,” said Day. “We couldn’t have gotten through school without getting vaccinated. It’s not like mandatory vaccination is unprecedented. I’m vaccinated and have gotten my booster and I want to go see my family and my mother.”

None of the BIW employees The Times Record spoke with Thursday said they’ve heard any definitive information from company leadership regarding how many employees are vaccinated, how many could lose their jobs, or what could happen to the shipyard’s production schedule if and when they hit the looming deadline for Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.