CYNTHIANA, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Wednesday, a group of 3M employees gathered outside the company’s Cynthiana location to protest a mandate that requires workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their jobs in January.
The protesters wore shirts reading, ‘I say no to the mandate,’ and ‘#FreedomOfChoice’ while carrying signs and American flags for hours.
In September, the Biden administration announced two vaccine mandates.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a temporary standard requiring companies with more than 100 employees to ensure workers were either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit a negative COVID-19 test weekly.
A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana ordered a temporary block on the mandate for large companies.
The second mandate was an executive order requiring federal government contractors to be fully vaccinated or be terminated. Federal contractors do not have the option to get weekly testing under the order.
3M is an international manufacturing company. Different sectors of the company fall under both mandates, but because the Cynthiana location employs federal contractors, those employees will not have the option to receive weekly testing, according to a company spokesperson.
“We worked through the pandemic. We were heroes then. Now we’re not even offered a choice to be tested. We just want our choice to work and not have to worry about this,” said Christopher Cooper, one of the protesters.
Cooper said he’s been an employee at 3M for ten years. He said he wants to keep working for the company, but not if they’re going to enforce the vaccine mandate.
“If they’re not willing to honor our choice, I don’t want to work for them anymore,” he said. “We’re Americans and we deserve that choice.”
Cooper said the protest is not about vaccinations but rather about a person’s right to choose.
“All we want is our choice. We’re not anti-vaccine. We’re anti-mandate,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t trust the vaccine. That has nothing to do with it. If anybody thinks that they want to get the vaccine that’s good for them, but mandating people to do it and telling them that you’re holding their livelihood over their heads, that isn’t right.”
Kentucky Representative Mark Hart, who represents Harrison County, made a stop at the protest to speak with constituents.
“I’m here to support these guys today. I think they’re doing the right thing and I hope that things can be worked out to where they don’t lose their jobs,” he said. “There were negative economic implications last year and this is going to just keep adding to it. It’s going to be a domino effect.”
3M spokesperson Jennifer Ehrlich responded to a request for a statement in an email:
“3M cares about its employees and their families and we want them to be healthy and safe – our objective since the pandemic began. 3M will comply with the federal vaccination mandates because we are a federal contractor, and a company with more than 100 employees. We believe it is important to get our workplaces back to normal as quickly as we can. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent death, serious illness and transmission. Like other companies, we have seen some sites have employees expressing their opinions publicly. We value our employees and hope they will choose to stay at 3M.”