GE workers in SC walk out in protest after company mandates COVID-19 vaccine

General Electric has joined the growing list of companies requiring all U.S.-based workers to get the COVID-19 vaccination, reportedly setting a deadline of December 8 for compliance.

The company employs around 56,000 workers in the United States and sells jet engines and other equipment to the federal government, which means GE is subject to President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring companies with federal contracts to have their employees inoculated. Biden has also mandated vaccines for federal employees and private businesses with more than 100 employees.

“On background, as a federal contractor, GE is complying with the executive order which requires employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “All GE U.S. employees will be fully vaccinated or receive a medical or religious accommodation by December 8th as required in the order.”

Employees can pursue medical or religious exemptions to getting vaccinated, but that didn’t stop GE workers in Greenville, South Carolina, from staging a protest outside.

“It’s important for me to be out here because of the government overreach and infringement on our personal liberties. What business does the government have telling you what you can and cannot do with your own body, concerning this vaccine,” GE employee Neil Slater told 7News WSPA.


(Video: WSPA)

The employees walked out of work Thursday around 10:45 a.m., with dozens of employees lining the street outside the plant. As seen in the video footage above, some were holding signs and others waved the American flag.

“There’s going to be people out here who are vaccinated. It’s just, we feel like the government has no business coming into our place of work, threatening our employment, threatening our employer,” Slater told WYFF4.

“It should be my choice and my choice only. Between me and my doctor,” employee Lane Stott said. “I will lose my job if it comes to this, me taking this shot. Because I will not take it.”

Truman Horner told the NBC affiliate that he would be willing to work remotely to avoid getting vaccinated.

“It’s not like I haven’t already considered getting vaccinated,” said Horner. “We’ve made the best decision for our family, a well-informed decision already and for the president or my employer to come and try to overrule that is just very deeply, personally offensive.”

The Greenville County Republican Party expressed support for the walkout in an online statement.

“We stand in solidarity with GE Power employees,” Chairman Jeff Davis said. “We completely disagree with medical mandates … Medical decisions are unique to an individual.”

Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, said earlier this month that South Carolina will not stop businesses from mandating COVID-19 vaccines, claiming that the state doesn’t have the authority to do so, WYFF reported.

“Those are questions between employers and employees,” McMaster said. “We want to protect that relationship and it let it be one of their choice. It’s their decisions. That’s free enterprise and the government should not interfere with free enterprise.”

On that note, the GOP governor responded to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican, signing an executive order on Monday banning private companies from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine in his state.

“I know him well,” McMaster said, in reference to Abbott. “He’s a remarkable man. But in South Carolina, we’re dealing with our situation in South Carolina, and our businesses and our people. And here, I don’t think that it’s the role of the state to interfere with that relationship.”

In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a special legislative session Thursday to address COVID-19 mandates — the state legislature is a part-time body, convening for a 60-day regular session early on each year. He said Florida will mount an aggressive legal challenge to the federal mandate and asked state lawmakers to legally block it.

“You have a federal government that is very much trying to use the heavy hand of government to force a lot of these injections and you have a lot of folks that actually believe that that decision should be theirs,” DeSantis said. “We believe in having basic medical freedom and individual choice, and that your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots.”

“Your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots,” DeSantis said in a statement, adding, “I want a state in which people are able to maintain their livelihoods, earn a living, and provide for their families. And if the federal government or big corporations are hurting people, then we have a responsibility to step up and lead.”

Tom Tillison

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