General Electric workers in South Carolina staged a walkout to demonstrate against their government-required COVID-19 vaccinations.
The protest began at about 10:45 a.m. on Thursday outside GE’s Greenville location and eventually swelled to include about 100 people, including children and some elderly people, according to the State. Some of the employees who walked out ended up driving away from the plant.
The GE plant is one of the county’s largest employers and has about 3,200 employees, some of whom said that they took a half day off to demonstrate while others said they didn’t go to work at all on Thursday.
Two of the employees, Jason Owens and Shannon Harrill, told the Greenville News they were protesting the vaccine mandate, not GE.
“We worked as an essential employee through the entire COVID pandemic,” said Harrill, who has worked for GE for nearly two decades. “We were required to be here and lose our job. Now you're requiring me to take it to stay here.”
Owens said he and the other protesters want South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, to stand against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.
GE employees are subject to vaccine mandates because of an executive order Biden signed that requires companies with federal contracts to have their employees inoculated. Additionally, the president is mandating vaccines for all federal employees and private businesses that have more than 100 employees.
The Greenville County Republican Party, which has been holding weekly “medical freedom” rallies in downtown Greenville, expressed support for the walkout in a statement.
“We stand in solidarity with GE Power employees,” said party Chairman Jeff Davis. “We completely disagree with medical mandates ... Medical decisions are unique to an individual.”
Protests over the mandates have raised fears they could worsen the employment landscape in the United States, which is already grappling with companies losing workers. The Federal Reserve revealed this week that the mandates have had a negative effect on the employment situation, although it's unclear to what extent.
“Firms reported high turnover, as workers left for other jobs or retired. Child care issues and vaccine mandates were widely cited as contributing to the problem, along with COVID-related absences,” the Fed said in a report.
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Original Author: Zachary Halaschak
Original Location: Dozens of General Electric workers stage walkout to protest vaccine mandate