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Spirit employees rally in opposition to company vaccine mandate

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 5:39 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, in Wichita, we saw firsthand the battle some businesses could face next as companies prepare to enforce a federal vaccine mandate. Thursday, hundreds of employees protested outside Spirit AeroSystems after the company announced all employees are required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, without exceptions.

Spirit explained the vaccine is mandatory due to President Biden’s executive order which requires the shot for all employees of federal contractors. The company said as a federal contractor, the frequent testing is not an option for employees wishing to opt out of getting vaccinated. During the process, the local machinists union is working to fight for employees’ rights, but it’s unclear to employees how many options are left and how many workers will stay if the company enforces the vaccine mandate.

“There’s only five people in the section that I work that are vaccinated and all of them were talking about this, stopping work,” Spirit employee Russell Gardenhire said. “I’ve heard of other sections in the plant completely shutting down, 90 percent of the employees leaving that day that email came out.”

Spirit employees also pointed out that the company is already dealing with staffing shortages ahead of the vaccine requirement. Union representatives said this announcement could hurt the company and aviation industry as a whole, even if some workers choose to leave.

Employees protesting the vaccine mandate outside Spirit on Thursday aren’t stopping there. Organizers shared a petition drafted Thursday in response to the new requirement, asking the company for conscientious, medical and religious exemptions. As of late Thursday afternoon, we’re told the petition already had nearly 500 signatures.

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