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General Motors and Ford won't mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for employees

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Key Points
  • GM and Ford will not require employees to receive Covid-19 vaccinations despite the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying employers can require workers to do so.
  • The Detroit automakers have each said they are making preparations for employee distribution but have declined to release specific plans.
  • UAW President Rory Gamble on Friday said he believes that none of the union's 400,000 members should be forced to receive Covid-19 vaccinations.

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Ford started resuming vehicle production in the U.S. on May 18, 2020 with new coronavirus safety protocols such as health assessments, personal protective equipment and facility modifications to increase social distancing.
Ford

General Motors will not require employees to receive Covid-19 vaccinations to return to physical office locations or continue working in manufacturing plants, the company told CNBC on Friday.

The Detroit automaker joins crosstown rival Ford Motor in confirming plans for voluntary vaccinations, even though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to require workers to get vaccinated.

United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble on Friday said he believes that none of the union's 400,000 members should be forced to receive Covid-19 vaccinations, but he encourages the workers to be vaccinated.

"I believe it's important for as many members as possible to be vaccinated," Gamble said in an emailed statement. "That said, just like the policy over flu shots there will be some that over religious beliefs, or medical history or personal beliefs will have concerns about being vaccinated and so I don't believe it should be mandatory."

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Gamble, whose comments were first reported Friday by Automotive News, said the UAW is working with companies, including the Detroit automakers, to make Covid-19 vaccines readily available to employees.

The Detroit automakers have each said they are making preparations for employee distribution but have declined to release specific plans. Reuters last month reported that Ford ordered a dozen ultra-cold freezers to store the vaccine being produced by Pfizer.

"We plan to make COVID vaccines available to our employees on a voluntary basis," Ford said in an emailed statement. "Our initial emphasis is on essential workers at our manufacturing plants, warehouses, workplace-dependent employees and employees who are required to travel."

Fiat Chrysler said it has "assembled a cross-functional team, including medical professionals, that is studying the most effective approach to distributing vaccines," but it has not announced whether being vaccinated would be mandatory for employees.

UAW President Rory Gamble speaks during a press conference with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding a settlement with the union of a federal corruption probe on Dec. 14, 2020 in Detroit.
Michael Wayland / CNBC

It would be surprising for Fiat Chrysler to break pattern from its Detroit counterparts, especially regarding UAW members. The Detroit automakers combined employ nearly 550,000 people globally, including roughly 153,000 UAW members.

Mandating vaccinations for workers could be viewed as contradictory to claims by the Detroit automakers that there has been low spreading of Covid-19 in their plants. Automakers implemented safety and social distancing protocols when they reopened factories that were shuttered for about two months this spring to slow the spread of the disease.

Gamble also told Automotive News that he plans to be vaccinated "on public TV" if possible as a way to encourage members to get vaccinated.