By Eric M. Johnson
EVERETT, Wash., Oct. 15 (Reuters) – Waving signs like ‘coercion is not consent’ and ‘stop the warrant,’ some 200 Boeing Co employees and others staged a protest against the demand on Friday aircraft manufacturer’s COVID-19 vaccine for United States workers.
Boeing said Tuesday it would require its 125,000 U.S. employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 under an executive order issued by President Joe Biden for federal contractors.
Biden and his team have struggled to defeat the coronavirus pandemic as much of the American population continues to resist taking safe and widely available vaccines.
“It’s my choice and it’s my body,” said an avionics engineer, his voice almost drowned out by anti-Biden chants and trucks honking their horns to show their support along the busy street outside the factory. Boeing in Everett, north of Seattle.
“It is an experimental drug administered in pseudo-emergency,” he added.
Another worker, an assembly mechanic, said, “This is America. We don’t just do what we’re told because someone says so. “
A Boeing spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this week, Boeing said employees must either show proof of vaccination or have approved reasonable accommodation based on disability or sincere religious belief by December 8.
Major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, have said they will also meet the deadline for federal contractors, as has aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems.
“Now that he has issued the executive order, it is our responsibility to comply with this order,” Spirit chief executive Tom Gentile wrote in a note to employees and seen by Reuters on Friday.
Spirit was recalling former employees as it prepared for what Gentile called “one of the fastest increases in production rates in the history of our industry.”
Several Boeing employees at the protest said they were asking for exemptions. An engineer said he could ask for early retirement, rather than comply with the warrant. Another employee, a Boeing technical designer for 20 years, said he would find a new job rather than taking a COVID vaccine, and made false claims about the vaccine.
“The vaccine is not safe, it is not proven and it is not effective,” he said.
Boeing said its mandate did not immediately apply to its sites in Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any entity, including private employers.
A Boeing mechanic – wearing a shirt with the words “practicing socialist distancing” – said the tenure reflected “a great tyrannical government and a great tyrannical business.”
“I am against the mandate, and the vaccine is a personal choice,” he said.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Everett, Washington, editing by Chris Reese)