President Joe Biden’s overbearing response to the COVID-19 pandemic has included a mandate on all employees of federal contractors requiring them to get vaccinated for the coronavirus — and numerous companies that do business with the government have fallen in line rather than risk losing the federal contract dollars.
Now, however, one major defense contractor is walking back its requirement that employees get vaccinated. In a stunning move, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has suspended an impending vaccination deadline for employees, Breitbart reports.
HII is the parent company of Newport News Shipbuilding, a Virginia shipyard employing around 25,000 workers that builds nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines for the U.S. Navy. According to reports, the group recently determined that Biden’s vaccine mandate does not apply under its current contracts with the Defense Department.
“Suspending the deadline”
In a letter Tuesday to all employees, HII president and CEO Mike Petters took note of the “complex undertaking” that was implementing the federal vaccine mandate and thanked employees for their patience as the “situation has evolved.”
He noted that the company had acted in “good faith” to require vaccinations, even as it “sought clarification” from its customer — the U.S. Navy — as to whether existing contracts would need to be “modified or re-priced” to accommodate the mandate.
“We have not wanted to lose a single employee to the virus, or to the effect of the mandate,” Petters insisted.
He said he has since confirmed “our contracts do not include a requirement to implement the mandate,” barring one exception, and as such, said, “We are hereby suspending the deadline for vaccination.”
Petters did add, however, that the “fluid situation” would be monitored and that the mandate or “other measures” could be reimposed, if necessary. In addition, the company is still strongly encouraging employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Disgruntled workers and potential strikes
Local media outlet WAVY reported that HII and Newport News Shipbuilding had initially set a Dec. 8 deadline for all workers to get vaccinated for the coronavirus if they wanted to keep their jobs. That deadline was later extended to Jan. 4.
While the news of the deadline’s suspension was undoubtedly cheered by many of the workers, others who already rolled up their sleeves weren’t too pleased about their employer’s sudden about-face.
“They made me get it and then lifted it,” Newport News Shipyard employee Deshawn Royal told local CBS affiliate WTKR. “I didn’t want to get it, but they said I had to get it or we were going to get fired. And then they lifted it. Y’all did us wrong.”
The Daily Press reported that the suspension came just hours before a local steelworkers union rejected a tentative contract agreement with the company — suggesting that in addition to not wanting workers to quit over the vaccine mandate, it also didn’t want to see workers go on strike, either.