Workers angrily protest near Boeing Everett plant against vaccination mandate

EVERETT – Several hundred anti-vaccination protesters, most of them Boeing blue-collar workers, voiced strong and furious opposition to the company’s new vaccination mandate on Friday outside the Machinists’ Union in Everett.

Along the Airport Way on both sides and undeterred by the pouring rain, the crowd waved American signs and flags while chanting anti-vax and anti-government slogans.

The noisy scene was deafening at times, as most of the passing cars and trucks showed their support with gestures and horns. Several oversized pickup trucks deliberately spun tires and slid sideways on the pavement, burning rubber and slowing traffic behind them, but delighting the crowd of protesters.

A large pickup truck hoisted an American flag and two “Thin Blue Line” flags on the bed of the truck. A sprinkling of MAGA hats and Donald Trump placards gave the protest a distinct political edge as chants erupted to direct obscenity against President Joe Biden.

Workers interviewed at the protest said they were determined to resist Boeing’s tenure, even prepared to lose their jobs.

Their fierce opposition was sparked by Boeing’s decision this week, following an executive order from Biden for all federal contractors, to impose COVID-19 vaccination on all of its employees, with limited exemptions. It was not possible to know how representative the protesters are of the workforce, but in their own right they represent a significant fraction.

The intractable views expressed by protesters suggest the company will certainly face sustained opposition to its policies and a chicken game as the Dec. 8 deadline approaches to fire workers who refuse to comply.

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Several of those interviewed, some of whom gave only their first names, said they were ready to leave Boeing.

COVID-19 vaccines have been approved by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, and are considered by all major medical authorities to be safe and remarkably effective. Yet some protesters categorically refuse to accept that the vaccines have been properly tested and controlled.

However, the most common motivating factor seemed to be political opposition to the mandate, presenting it as an attack on individual freedom.

The potent mix of medical, political and even religious objections to the vaccine’s mandate swirling through the crowd was all apparent in the opinions of Mike Smith, 38, a 747 structural mechanic with 11 years at Boeing.

“I’m personally against vaccinations, it’s just my religious belief, being a Christian,” Smith said.

“If I want the vaccination, it’s my choice. It shouldn’t be forced, ”he said. “What the government is doing is forcing companies to do their dirty work. You have a mandate to lose your job, and that is not fair.

“I am here to support freedom,” Smith added. “It’s my body, my choice.”

Although he has two children and his wife does not work, Smith said he was ready to quit his job if the tenure was imposed on him.

“I had a job before I worked here and a job before this job,” he said. “I’m going to find a job that doesn’t force us. “

Andy Arroyos, a 32-year-old quality inspector at Boeing, said he would not get the vaccine “because it will kill me”. And he, too, said he was prepared to walk away from Boeing to avoid the vaccine.

“It hasn’t proven it’s safe to start with,” Arroyos said. “I think all this COVID stuff isn’t true either. It’s a fake.”

Anthony, a 747 mechanic with 10 years at Boeing, said he was vaccinated but his wife, who is breastfeeding their second child, chose not to be vaccinated.

“We don’t feel safe for our child who injects this into his mother’s milk,” he said.

“Everyone has the right to choose what they put in their body. It’s not Jay Inslee, it’s not Joe Biden, it’s not [Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss] Stan Deal, ”said Anthony. “It is not their place to tell us what we can put in our body.”

And he said he felt there was a similar strong feeling in the majority of the workforce.

“It is almost unanimous in my building that no one supports this mandate,” he said.

John Martinez, a 767 mechanic with nine years at Boeing, said his objections were more political than medical.

“It’s everyone’s choice to be able to get what they want when they want,” he said. “No one should be forced to get it.”

If Boeing forces the problem, Martinez said, “I’m going to sell my house and leave the state, probably Texas or Alabama or Florida.”

Brad, a 767 mechanic with 10 years at Boeing, wore a “Don’t Tread On Me” T-shirt, Gadsden flag under his coat.

“The company is overstepping it and trying to force us to do something it is not allowed to do. They are trying to put me out of work right now, ”he said.

Brad accuses Biden of forcing Boeing’s hand.

“Boeing is an accomplice, but yes, it’s the federal government,” he said.

Asked to comment on the protest, Boeing issued a statement: “Boeing is committed to maintaining a safe working environment for our employees and to advancing the health and safety of our global workforce. “

A spokesperson said workers’ presence at the Everett site was normal on a Friday at this time of year.

The strong polarization of views on the vaccine’s mandate has placed the union of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in a difficult position as it must support members with directly opposing views.

The union, representing more than 24,000 blue-collar workers, issued a statement Friday saying “the vaccine is good for public health and safety” but that, despite everything, the union is “absolutely opposed to this mandate”.

“A vaccination mandate puts members in an untenable position to choose between their beliefs or lose their jobs,” the statement said. “We don’t think it’s fair.”

The union said it heard of “potential walkouts or wildcat strikes” and said it could not encourage such activity because it had a no-strike clause in its contract.

“However, our members have the right to engage in concerted activity,” the union statement said. “We could see rallies on both sides of the issue. “

As the December deadline for the vaccines mandate approaches, Boeing looks certain it will face more vehement protests and now also faces the possibility of losing some workers.

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