Sisters and Brothers,
I realize that many of you are concerned and anxious about the possibility of Duke Energy mandating the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. I also realize that many of you have questions regarding the Union's stance on a mandate. I'll start there. System Council U8 does not support or endorse mandated vaccines as a condition of employment. System Council U8 remains in contact with our sister locals in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana and our priorities and resolve are aligned. We will explore every available legal avenue to protect your right to choose should the Company implement a change to conditions of employment by mandating any vaccine, but let me be clear...there have been NO serious conversations about that occurring. As a matter of fact, every time the Union has questioned the Company regarding the vaccine, the Company has reiterated their position that they are not considering mandatory vaccines at this time. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this....first and foremost, the Company is well aware that mandating the vaccine will result in a mass exodus of employees and in today's environment, they can't afford to lose anyone. Secondly, the liability questions resulting from a severe reaction to the vaccine that was mandated as a condition of employment are real and unanswered. Third, mandating the vaccine to Company employees would not be an effective solution to possible exposure when they can't mandate the contractors working on the property.
Should the Company mandate a vaccine and the Union be unsuccessful in legally preventing it, the Company would still have to bargain over the unilateral change in terms and conditions of employment and the potential of those changes to impact the Bargaining Unit. This would include possible exemptions, how to deal with those exemptions, alternatives to the vaccine, testing protocol, how to deal with test results....etc.
Here's the huge caveat though. On September 9, 2021, President Biden directed the Department of Labor to draft an OSHA standard that would mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for most Federal Government agencies as well as any private business with 100 or more employees. I fully expect this to be challenged and litigated in court and the final order will undoubtedly look much different than the directive. If it stands as directed though, it presents a huge obstacle for the Union in our ability to protect your right to choose. Since this would no longer be a Company mandate, and instead, an OSHA standard, the Company would be legally obligated to be in compliance and most assuredly would be. At that time, we would still have the right to bargain over the impact on the Bargaining Unit and would do so, however, the legal challenges exhausted, the standard will stand and the Department of Labor will be the enforcing body.
The truth is sisters and brothers, SCU8 is taking a measured approach because we literally have no idea what the standard will look like and how, if at all, it will ultimately affect our union body. We are here and we are paying attention to everything going on but until there's something to react to, we won't.
Please continue working safely and remain diligent in protecting your brothers and sisters in an inherently dangerous industry.