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Federal officials say vaccine mandate legal but protesters question the rule

KMIZ ABC 17 News
KMIZ ABC 17 News
 2021-10-26
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Workers protesting against their company's coronavirus vaccine requirements stood outside Columbia's 3M plant for the second straight day Tuesday, with about a dozen outside holding signs decrying the mandate.

One of the protesters, Jason Huggler, protested for the first time Tuesday. Huggler does not work for 3M but said he supports people having the right to make their own choices, so he joined in the protest.

"I never protested anything in my life but this isn't about 3M. This is about freedom, this is about personal liberty," said Huggler.

The requirement at 3M was sparked by President Joe Biden's expected vaccine or test rule and mandates for federal contractors such as 3M. The new rule requires federally contracted employers like 3M and others to make their workers get vaccinated. Another rule, yet to be implemented, requires vaccination of employees at companies with 100 or more workers.

When the new rule is implemented, the Missouri Attorney General's office said it would consider legal action.

"When OSHA releases their rule that would require private businesses with 100 or more employees require their employees to get vaccinated or tested I believe it's weekly the Attorney General's Office stands ready willing and able to file suit to stop that mandate," said Chris Nuelle, Press secretary for Missouri Attorney General Office.

Some workers have said the requirement violates their rights, implying the measure might not be legal. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says such a mandate is not prohibited under federal anti-discrimination law.

But experts say the new rule must accommodate medical issues, religious beliefs and disability.

A Thomson Reuters legal blog says employers must provide accommodations for an employee’s sincerely held religious belief when it comes to vaccine requirements.

Aaron Gonzalez, a manufacturing engineer at 3M for over 20 years, said he believes requiring the vaccines, which health experts say are safe and effective, is not right. "The government has no right to tell us what to do with our bodies and a lot of don't feel like this is safe," Gonzalez said.

About 191 million Americans, or nearly 58% of the population, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Our World in Data website . More than 3 million Missourians have been fully vaccinated, or about 49% of state residents, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services .

Biden has yet to decide on a date the mandate will be required for all businesses with 100 employees or more.

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