Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the parent company to Newport News Shipbuilding, suspended its federally-enforced coronavirus vaccine mandate after the U.S. Navy “confirmed that our contracts do not include a requirement to implement the mandate,” and some workers threatened to quit, according to the Daily Press and WTKR.
Newport News Shipbuilding is the world’s only manufacturer of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and one of two manufacturers of Virginia and Columbia Class submarines. With 25,000 employees, it is also the Commonwealth of Virginia’s largest industrial employer.
Initially, the shipyard announced all 25,000 employees would be required to be fully vaccinated by December 8 as a “condition of continued employment,” according to WAVY. That deadline was extended to January 4, with the blessing of the federal government, but has now been suspended.
In a letter to employees, HII president and CEO Mike Petters said, “implementation of the federal government’s vaccine mandate has been a complex undertaking,” and that now the “situation has evolved.” He also noted, “We have not wanted to lose a single employee to the virus, or to the effect of the mandate.”
But some shipyard employees “feel tricked” according to WTKR, explaining to the outlet that “they only got the vaccine because of the mandate.”
Deshawn Royal, a Newport News Shipbuilding employee, told WTKR, “They made me get it and then lifted it. … 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.”
WTKR spoke to another employee, Rodney Apop, who was reportedly “happy to get vaccinated,” but explained that many of his colleagues felt similarly to Royal. “They went ahead and jumped, and they didn’t have the choice to do it,” Apop said, continuing, “And now when they take [the mandate] away, they wish they had known so they didn’t have to.”
WTKR also reported that employees believe the mandate was lifted after workers threatened to quit. As Royal explained, “You’re gonna lose your people. … 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.”
HII still encourages all their employees to get vaccinated, and it will maintain its mask mandate.