As infectious disease experts warn of a “viral blizzard” from the Omicron COVID-19 variant for about the next 6-8 weeks, Kohler Co. has agreed to suspend its vaccine mandate for all UAW Local 833 union employees. (This doesn’t apply to non-union associates).
The agreement came one day before the deadline for all Kohler associates to be fully vaccinated on December 17 in order to meet a federal Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) rule issued by OSHA. The rule requires that companies with 100 or more employees must ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4, 2022, or that they produce a negative Covid test at least once a week. Kohler’s mandate did not include the weekly testing option for all employees.
UAW Local 833 filed a grievance demanding Kohler’s mandate be revoked, alleging that Kohler violated the collective bargaining agreement and the National Labor Relations Act. The National Labor Relations Board has stated that employers do not have to bargain over the mandatory aspects of the ETS, but they must bargain over the effects of the implementation of the ETS.
A letter sent out by UAW 833 to its members stated that the company and UAW Local 833 will meet in the coming days to discuss Kohler’s vaccine program further to see if the grievance can be resolved. Until then, no UAW employees will be “separated” effective January 1 for not being vaccinated. The letter states that if the program is restored, all UAW associates will be notified in advance.
The UAW Local 833 said in its letter that it strongly encourages all associates to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and follow the CDC guidelines, including receiving a booster shot in order to protect each other at work and in the community.