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Several Ingalls employees angry over mandated vaccines, now fear losing their jobs

All Ingalls employees and contractors must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 7:11 AM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Several employees at Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula are concerned about losing their jobs after the shipyard announced last week that all workers must get the COVID-19 vaccine. The deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated is Dec. 8, just weeks before Christmas.

The company put out new guidance Wednesday saying that employees should receive their first shot by Oct. 27 in order to meet the December deadline, which would allow the recommended four weeks between each dose and ensure the employee has had both shots for a full two weeks before Dec. 8.

The mandate at Ingalls falls under President Biden’s sweeping vaccine order that all federal employees and contractors be fully vaccinated with no option to test out.

“While Huntington Ingalls Industries is a publicly traded company, we are a federal contractor because we provide services to our military and government customers through federal contracts. For that reason, we are bound by any regulations, policies and contractual provisions that apply to all federal contractors,” stated a letter to Ingalls employees dated Sept. 24.

Since that announcement, WLOX has heard from more than two dozen shipyard employees who now fear losing their jobs. Nearly all of them, however, refuse to speak out publicly, afraid that may also cost them their jobs.

One of those employees said he is willing to risk it in order to speak up for his beliefs and that of those are who are unable to speak up. Ashton Hughes is a young pipe welding apprentice who was planning on having a long career and future with Ingalls. Now, that future is in jeopardy.

“I’m standing up for what I think is right,” Hughes told WLOX after an union meeting Thursday. “It may be wrong but, in the end, that’s just for me to learn. Do what you think is right and do what you think is good for you.”

Hughes said one of his family members had an adverse reaction to the vaccine, and he isn’t comfortable enough to get it right now.

Another employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said he is meeting his doctor Monday to consider getting the shot, despite his hesitancy in doing so.

Several employees sent statements to WLOX but asked not to be identified. Most of them said they feel this is against their rights and they should be given the option to choose.

“Although I made the choice to receive the vaccine, I’m greatly concerned by the fact they’re making it where there is no choice. Choosing between keeping your job and something that you either religiously cannot receive or simply because you don’t want to should be a choice that you’re able to make and still be employed. The same people they were calling essential employees all year last year, who didn’t miss work and came in even when businesses were closed everywhere else, are the same ones who will be told they can no longer come through the gates because they wouldn’t take a mandated vaccine,” wrote in one shipyard employee.

Another wrote: “I am a father of two beautiful girls, ages 2 and 5, and a husband of a wonderful wife. I am the main source of income for our family and feel violated that I am having to be threatened with feed my family or take an experimental vaccine. I am one of the fortunate people that was able to work from home during the first 14 months of the pandemic. I was required to return to onsite work in May and am now being forced to comply or be terminated. We aren’t even getting the option to test weekly like the mandate stated we would be able to do.”

“It is becoming a dictatorship instead of a democracy. Where are people’s rights? Where are people’s choices?... It’s scare tactics to say get the vaccine or you will be terminated,” wrote another.

“This isn’t right at all for Ingalls workers! We have a right to say no but will lose our job! We have a right by law to refuse it for religious and medical reasons but that shouldn’t be right. Ingalls workers losing their jobs for standing up, that’s retaliation and they preach that to us out here. Ingalls don’t mind if it’s something to do with building ships or anything like that,” said another.

WLOX reached out to Ingalls Shipbuilding and multiple local unions this week but they did not have a comment at this time.

Employees who are not yet vaccinated and wish to be are able to get the vaccine at the onsite health clinic at the shipyard. However, the announcement from Ingalls this week says employees won’t know at the time they sign up which vaccine they will receive, whether it will be Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. They will learn which vaccine it is at the time of their appointment.

Ingalls currently employees 11,500 people and is the largest manufacturing employer in Mississippi, contributing significantly to the economic growth of the state, especially the Gulf Coast region.

To read the full statement from Ingalls Shipbuilding regarding the vaccine mandate, click here.

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