SEATTLE — The Boeing Co. has told employees they must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or possibly be fired.
The deadline for workers at the aerospace giant is Dec. 8, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
“To ensure compliance with President Biden’s executive order for federal contractors, Boeing is requiring its U.S.-based employees to either show proof of vaccination or have an approved reasonable accommodation (based on a disability or sincerely held religious belief) by Dec. 8,” the company said. “Boeing will continue to carefully monitor guidance from public health agencies, and requirements from federal, state and local governments to inform our COVID-19 policies. We continue to prioritize the health and safety of all of our employees.”
An internal company presentation viewed by The Seattle Times described the requirement starkly.
“Compliance with these requirements is a condition of employment,” the Boeing presentation said. “Employees who are unable to meet these requirements … may be released from the company.”
Employees granted such an exemption will have to “undergo frequent testing for COVID-19” and be ready to “present a negative test result upon request,” the Boeing presentation stated.
The policy will apply to roughly 140,000 employees company-wide, with about 57,000 of those in Washington. Many thousands of them are employed at the Boeing factory in Everett.
Jon Holden, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 751, in a message to members in the October issue of the union paper, wrote that “the reality is our members are polarized on this issue.”
“It is our responsibility to defend and advocate for all our members,” Holden added. And though he noted that he and his family are vaccinated, the union must also defend “those who can’t or won’t accept the vaccine.”
In a statement posted on the District 751 website late Tuesday, the union said it has “demanded to bargain the effects of this decision. … We will ensure that these processes are well communicated in order that any member can follow the process to request an exemption. In addition, we will work to enforce just cause provisions within our bargaining agreement and for those denied their requested exemptions who are still unable or unwilling to accept the vaccine, we will investigate each on a case-by-case basis.”
The white-collar union at Boeing, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), said in a statement Tuesday it is engaging with Boeing “to ensure implementation gives proper consideration to members’ concerns.”
“We also remind members the mandates stem from a federal directive and our employers’ need to provide a safe working environment for you and your co-workers,” the SPEEA statement said.
Boeing might face more resistance to the new policy in Republican-controlled states.
On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring private companies or any other entity from requiring vaccines.
Boeing has more than 5,000 employees in Texas. It has about 32,000 more at facilities in Alabama, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina.