Employees of Procter & Gamble and their supporters took to the streets last week to protest the requirement that all employees get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Protesters gathered Monday, Sept. 27, at the high-traffic intersection of U.S. Hwys. 61 & 177 in Fruitland, and then later in the week moved their protest closer to the plant entrance on Hwy. 177.
Protesters gathered each morning from about 5:15 to 8:15, as local P&G leadership and employees came to work.
“Our immediate goal was for our leadership here to see our message,” said P&G employee Paul Harrison, one of the leaders of the protest.
He realizes local managers are in a “tough position” because the mandate came from corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, OH. The hope is that local managers will take employee concerns up the chain of command and P&G will rescind its mandate.
P&G informed its employees that by Nov. 1, all of them must be fully vaccinated with one of the three available vaccines.
Harrison said he would like to see this deadline “pulled back and taken off the table.”
P&G will allow qualifying religious or medical exemptions, but employees who request those exemptions will have to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests (paid for by the company).
Employees can choose not to be vaccinated, but if they don’t have the approved exemptions, they will have to be tested on their own time and will not be reimbursed by the company for the tests.
Harrison said exemptions are allowed “at the discretion of P&G.” One of the biggest fears among the protesters is that those exemptions will one day be disallowed and then there will be no choice at all. People who don’t want the shots will be forced to give up — not just jobs — but their careers.
All P&G employees are required to report their vaccination status to the company.
P&G’s requirements were established to comply with an executive order signed by Pres. Joe Biden on Sept. 9, that requires all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate the COVID shots or weekly testing. Although Biden made the announcement, there have been no guidelines issued by OSHA or any other government agency. Harrison said P&G is forcing this mandate on its employees before the government has required it.
Biden’s executive order is believed by many to be illegal federal government overreach. “Ultimately, it comes down to overreach,” Harrison said.
“The federal government cannot mandate these COVID injections under authorization of emergency use (EUA),” stated a Sept. 9 press release from Liberty Counsel. “There is no FDA-approved COVID shot available in the United States. Furthermore, it cannot be mandatory under Title VII.” (Although the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the FDA, all of the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S. was issued under the EUA.)
“Employees and employers also have constitutional protections against this lawless Biden mandate,” the press release continues. “Biden’s lawless mandate also collides with many state laws, including those that ban vaccine passports.”
Organizers invited State Rep. Barry Hovis to their protest on Monday. He listened to their concerns, and told them there is little the State can do at this time. Hovis told the CBJ that Attorney Gen. Eric Schmitt is waiting to see what the federal mandate or the OSHA guidelines actually say before deciding to take any legal action.
“As a citizen, you don’t have to comply with the mandates,” Hovis said he told the protesters. “But you will have to suffer the consequences.”
Hovis said the turnout for the protest was bigger than he expected. “It was a big turnout. There were a lot of people who care; who want their voices to be heard.”
Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people took part in the protest. Some already had the shot but didn’t think shots should be mandated. Others already had COVID and have the antibodies; so they see no need to get vaccinated. Others believe the vaccines have not been studied long enough to know their long-term effects.
Ultimately, these protests are not about a vaccine or the pandemic, said Harrison. They are about freedom. “It’s not about the vaccine,” Harrison said. “It’s not about the pandemic. We believe what’s being taken away here is a choice.”