Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to block proposed OSHA regulations backed by the Biden administration, it was assumed that automakers would quickly begin weighing in on vaccine rules now that there would be no federal obligation. However, they’ve actually been keeping quiet on the matter, with Stellantis being the first manufacturer to walk back previous requirements.
While the automaker had previously been working up to companywide vaccine mandates, it pushed back its vaccine deadline for early January. This week, Stellantis confirmed that it will be abandoning the scheme entirely after suggesting that the existing compliance rates were sufficient. Though something tells me that executives have become aware of the swelling pushback against COVID restrictions and became concerned with the optics.
There’s presently a 45-mile long (claimed) convoy of U.S. and Canadian truckers that are headed for Ottawa to protest government mandates and drumming up support along the way. Believed to be the largest organized grouping of motor vehicles in human history, the “Freedom Convoy” left Vancouver earlier in the week to give the Canadian capital a piece of its mind about what’s been going on over the last two years. While focused on undoing government mandates in the general sense, its primary target is new rules that require every trucker crossing the U.S.-Canadian border to be fully vaccinated or face a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
The group has numerous social media accounts, with the biggest showing 300,000 supporters on Facebook, and has managed to raise $5.5 million (Canadian) from 70,000 donations on GoFundMe. Though accessing the money might be difficult, as GoFundMe opted to freeze the money after citing allegedly suspicious activity. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also called the group a “fringe minority” holding “unacceptable views.” Meanwhile, Ottawa’s police chief is telling locals to stay home and avoid the protest when it comes into town this weekend.
“Let me be very clear: we are prepared to investigate, arrest if necessary, charge and prosecute anyone who acts violently or breaks the law in the demonstrations, or in association with the demonstrations,” Chief Peter Sloly said Friday morning. “We have the capability and commitment to pursue investigations and prosecutions well after the demonstrations have ended.”
Police also said they were monitoring “inappropriate and threatening language on social media related to this event” and that there would be consequences for people who engaged in criminal conduct.
Similar warnings have been issued in cities across the world over as lockdown protests have become increasingly common. European cities routinely saw tens of thousands of people marching in opposition to government mandates throughout the latter half of 2021. The same has been true in Australia, Canada, and the United States with legacy media frequently framing protestors as political extremists.
Truckers have refuted those accusations.
“I’m here [in Ontario] today so we can get our freedom back from Mr. Trudeau who is running our country not very appropriately. I’m a vaccinated truck driver, I cross the border weekly. I don’t have a problem with the vaccine, but I have a problem because we should have the right to choose what we want to do and not lose our jobs over it,” Marie Weir told local outlet Orilla Matters on Thursday. “If you don’t get vaccinated you can’t cross the border. There’s nurses, doctors, PSWs, everybody – if you’re not vaccinated you lose your job. Where’s our economy going to go? It’s not fair to you and I.”
While I cannot pretend to know what’s in the heart of every individual protestor, the Freedom Convoy has been explicit in stating that it’s really only interested in a return to normalcy. Organizers have said that vaccine mandates are creating disastrous problems with supply chains and would continue to even if compliance was universal. Though their keystone argument is that the Canadian government has overstepped its bounds and needs to revoke any-and-all mandates pertaining to the pandemic. Truckers also got some impromptu support from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who praised them over social media.
“Canadian truckers rule,” Musk tweeted on Thursday. “CB radios are free from govt/media control.”
Clearly aware of the widening factional divide, Stellantis is walking a tightrope with its messaging. Thus far, it has only confirmed that it will be nixing vaccine requirements for salaried, non-union workers living in the United States. The company estimates that an overwhelming majority of those employees had already been vaccinated (even before its November 2020 mandate), with the only real change being that they’ll not be subjected to boosters. But it’s still strongly encouraging staff to take the vaccine and follow health and safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
“Protecting the health and safety of all Stellantis employees has been guiding the implementation of policies and protocols related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic,” spokeswoman Jodi Tinson told The Detroit News. “We continue to encourage all employees to get vaccinated and, when eligible, boosted as the most effective way to prevent serious COVID-19 illness. We will continue to monitor the situation and the guidance of public health authorities to make any modifications necessary to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our workforce.”
Other employees are subject to UAW guidance, which had already expressed hesitancy to endorse mandates after pushback from members. Stellantis thinks around half of its union workers had already self-certified their vaccination status, though the UAW will have to negotiate health and safety rules before members are required to do anything.
Ford has not yet updated its stance on vaccine requirements or testing and had previously been requiring salaried workers to get injected by January 4th or be subject to disciplinary action. Meanwhile, General Motors has been extremely vocal in its endorsement of COVID mandates but has failed to implement any formal requirements for workers to get vaccinated.
The above is only true for the United States, however. In Canada, GM had demanded that all personnel and visitors would be “fully vaccinated” (an ever-evolving term) by December 12th, 2021. Ford launched a nearly identical plan but has repeatedly pushed back the deadline with the current date being March 28th.
[Image: Ainsley Moore/Shutterstock]
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