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Automakers, UAW reviewing Biden's vaccine mandate

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WASHINGTON — U.S. automakers and the UAW are reviewing a plan unveiled Thursday by the Biden administration that would require large companies to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees or have them undergo weekly testing.

Under the plan, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will issue an emergency temporary standard that requires all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their work force is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis. The regulation also would require paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.

The approach — part of a six-pronged, comprehensive national strategy to reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans — is expected to take effect in the coming weeks, according to Bloomberg. Employers failing to implement the requirements could face fines of nearly $14,000 per violation, the report said.

“The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America,” President Joe Biden said in remarks Thursday.

Nearly three-quarters of eligible Americans have received at least one shot, but one quarter — about 80 million people — have yet to get one, according to the White House.

“That 25 percent can cause a lot of damage — and they are,” Biden said.

For the U.S. auto industry, rising COVID-19 cases and the highly transmissible delta variant have prompted the return of factory mask mandates and delayed plans to bring workers back to offices. No major automakers, thus far, have required vaccinations for all employees.

Ford Motor Co. said it continues to encourage all eligible employees to get vaccinated.

“We believe the vaccine plays a critical role in combating the virus and have already designated some roles where we require the vaccine,” the company said in a statement to Automotive News.

“We will be assessing the new executive actions to determine what adjustments need to be made to our current vaccination policy as we continue to prioritize the safety of our employees.”

General Motors, which is requiring all salaried employees in the U.S. to disclose their vaccination status to help guide its safety protocols, said it “supports vaccination.”

“At GM, we are strongly encouraging our employees to get vaccinated given the broad availability of safe and highly efficacious vaccines, which data consistently show is the best way to protect yourself and those around you,” the Detroit automaker said.

Stellantis said it will review the Biden administration’s announcement and discuss it with its partners.

“Since vaccines have become available, Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated, including facilitating administration through our near-site clinics and in partnership with our local unions,” the automaker said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the UAW, which represents union workers at Ford, GM and Stellantis, said the group is still reviewing the details of the announcement and how it will impact its various contracts and members.

UAW President Ray Curry told reporters this month that the union remains opposed to mandatory shots and that it has not tracked how many of its members are vaccinated.

Toyota Motor North America said it is “supportive of following the recommendations of the CDC and other health experts.”

“We continue to let the science be our guide when it comes to COVID-19 protocols and, directionally, we are aligned with actions that will help eradicate and/or curtail the pandemic,” Toyota said.

American Honda Motor Co. said it is “strongly encouraging” its employees to get fully vaccinated. The Japanese automaker earlier this year hosted vaccine clinics at its operations in Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana and elsewhere in the U.S.

“With vaccines readily available, we are actively directing our associates to where they can find them in their communities and providing incentives through our company wellness program,” said Chris Abbruzzesse, a spokesperson for American Honda. “Regarding the administration’s new plan, we will carefully evaluate what impact it will have on our business and associates.”