Navy Shipbuilder Backpedals On Vaccine Mandate After Flood Of Employees Threaten To Quit

A federal subcontractor to the US Navy reversed course over the vaccine mandate this week, and announced that most workers will not longer be required to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

A forward section of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy’s main deck is lifted into place at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division in April 2018. (Photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries)

Huntington Ingalls Industries, parent company of Newport News Shipbuilding made the announcement on Tuesday night notifying employees that they will no longer have to comply with a January 4 deadline.

“with respect to Ingalls Shipbuilding and Newport News Shipbuilding, our customer has confirmed that our contracts do not include a requirement to implement the mandate,” reads the letter. “In light of this development, we are hereby suspending the deadline for vaccination, except where specific Technical Solutions contracts require it.

The shipyard initially announced that all 25,000 employees would need to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 as a “condition of continued employment,” only to move it to January – and now, not at all.

Some shipyard employees feel ‘tricked’ however, as they “only got the vaccine because of the mandate,” according to WTKR.

“They made me get it and then lifted it,” said Newport News Shipyard employee, Deshawn Royal. “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.”

Another employee, Rodney Apop, said that a lot of co-workers feel the same way.

“They went ahead and jumped, and they didn’t have the choice to do it,” he said. “And now when they take [the mandate] away, they wish they had known so they didn’t have to.”

Employees speculate the suspension came after workers threatened to quit.

You’re gonna lose your people,” said Royal. “Not everybody is gonna get it. It’s not worth a lot of people’s money to get injected with something they don’t want.”

In Petter’s letter to employees, he stated, “We have not wanted to lose a single employee to the virus, or to the effect of the mandate.”

But sentiments varied between shipyard employees.

Anthony Askew, an employee within the IT Department at HII, said his coworkers are advocates for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

All of us got the vaccine so we pretty much are on the same page in terms of supporting getting the vaccine,” he said. -WTKR

While there is no longer a mandate, the company is still encouraging employees to get vaccinated. 

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