General Electric Co. GE 0.59 percent, Union Pacific Corp. UNP -0.08 percent and other significant U.S. employers are requiring Covid-19 vaccines for their employees to meet a Dec. 8 deadline set by the Biden administration for government contractors. 

Boeing Co., International Business Machines Corp., and Raytheon Technologies Corp. are among the federal contractors that have already announced Covid-19 vaccination obligations for their U.S. employees. Together with GE and Union Pacific, these corporations employ over 300,000 people in the United States. 

Employees of government contractor jobs must be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to an executive order issued by President Biden in September. Contractors may request an accommodation for a religious belief or a disability, but they cannot opt-out of the Covid-19 testing.  

The White House has also stated that it intends to force organizations with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular Covid-19 testing. Still, that policy is subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration approval. 

While some large corporations, such as Walt Disney Co. and meatpacker Tyson FoodsInc. have mandated vaccines, most firms are waiting for additional information from OSHA. Other businesses have delayed their intentions to return to the office, and some industry groups have expressed worries about the cost of complying with the norm. 

GE, which sells jet engines and other military equipment to the United States, stated that all of its approximately 56,000 US employees must be completely vaccinated by the Dec. 8 deadline or have a medical or religious exemption. Like many other firms, GE has previously stated that it was educating and encouraging its employees to be vaccinated but had not gone so far as to require it. 

Union Pacific stated that it is complying with the executive order on federal contractors because the railroad operator transports commodities such as military equipment throughout the country for the armed services.  “Along with being our best defense against severe Covid-19 illness, vaccines are our best path forward out of the pandemic,” Beth Whited, Union Pacific’s human resources chief, said in a note to staff last week. 

Workers must declare their vaccination status unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption. Union Pacific is providing nonunion employees with more vacation time and unionized employees with cash rewards. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action, including termination for nonunion employees, while unionized employees may be medically disqualified from duty. 

Three Union Pacific railroad unions have since launched a lawsuit against the vaccine mandate, claiming that such changes must be addressed at the bargaining table. Union Pacific filed a countersuit on Friday, claiming that it was necessary to avoid a disruption in operations. 

IBM said it adopted a mandate for U.S. employees by Dec. 8 regardless of where they work or how often they come to an office. “This is in line with the policies of many of our clients and partners and consistent with President Biden’s recent Executive Order for Federal contractors,” IBM said. In August, IBM said it would require vaccines for U.S. staff who wanted to return to its offices. 

Most major U.S. airlines have stated that they anticipate being considered as contractors because of their government business and have indicated plans to execute the vaccine requirement with no exceptions, except for individuals who qualify for religious or medical accommodations. 

Source: The Wallstreet Journal