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JPL Employees to Protest Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Published on Thursday, October 28, 2021 | 12:52 pm

A group of employees from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are planning a demonstration in Pasadena on Monday decrying a federal vaccine mandate that will require all JPL employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 or face potential termination.

Members of the group JPLNoVaxMandate plan to host their protest from 7 a.m. to noon at Oak Grove Drive and Foothill Boulevard, near Hahamongna Watershed Park, organizers said.

In keeping with a federal mandate affecting all federal contractors, including JPL, employees will need to have their final doses of vaccine by Nov. 23 in order to meet the requirement, as vaccination is not considered complete until two weeks after the final dose.

“Effective Dec. 8, 2021, vaccination will be a condition of employment for JPL employees and a requirement for badged affiliates and contractors working for JPL, regardless of whether you work on Lab, at another JPL facility, or elsewhere off-site,” the policy states.

Those who fail to meet the requirement will be placed on a six-week unpaid leave, JPL Business Administrator and, JPLNoVaxMandate member Taylor Ingram said.

“And at that point, if we’re not vaccinated, we will lose our jobs. JPL has not given us the option to continue testing. This applies for employees that are working at home full time, employees that are working out of state,” she said.

“So we’re going to lose our jobs and we believe that there are as many as 1,000 employees at JPL who have not received the vaccine,” according to Ingram. “However, we don’t have any way of finding out what that number actually is unless we start protesting and making other employees aware of our movement.”

The demonstration is not in opposition to vaccination, but in support of personal liberty, said JPL Engineering Development Technician and JPLNoVaxMandate member Caleb Macy.

“There’s a number of us that are very concerned about the implications to our freedoms. And if the government, or anyone, is given the right to tell you what you have to have in your body, that leads down a very dark path,” he said.

“We have both people who are vaccinated and not vaccinated in our group, but everybody is just wanting to stand for body sovereignty, the right to choose, and medical freedom,” Macy said.

Several employees expressed concerns over the approach to medical or religious exemptions to the policy.

A procedure will be put in place for employees to apply for exemptions on Nov. 1, according to Ingram.

“But we’re not given clear information on how it’s going to go. We’ve only been given examples of what the paperwork might look like and no clear process has been defined,” she said. 

“They’re only giving us an eight-day period to submit for an exemption for this process, and then it’ll be closed. And there’s no timeline defined as to how long it’ll take to let us know, either, or any kind of appeals process in place.”

Macy also took issue with the exemptions policy.

“That seems like they’re trying to run the clock and not really allow reasonable accommodation or dissent from just falling in line and taking the vaccine or losing your job,” he said. 

“Because being told: ‘Do this, or you lose your job, you lose what you’ve worked for, everything you’ve worked for in your career, you can’t support your family,’ — that’s not giving you a choice. That’s forcing you, and that’s wrong.”

JPL has traditionally been a secure place to work, Macy added. “It’s mind-blowing to me that while there is no category here in JPL’s guidelines, that this is a fireable offense.”

The issue is much larger than any single employer, he said.

“The protest is not just for JPL. It’s for everyone’s freedom and their right to choose what goes in their body and to be able to have strongly held beliefs,” he said.

“All of us in this group and a lot of other people here at JPL are looking at possibly losing our jobs, and we’re OK with that consequence, because these are our beliefs and our principles, and we’re going to stand on them,” Macy said.

Another employee, who asked that his name not be published, said it was daunting to face potential “career annihilation” over the vaccine mandate.

“I spent six years getting education for this field and I was not under the impression when I did, that I was going to be forced into medical injections for this career,” he said. “And now I’m faced with not being able to pursue my career further. So there’s a lot of us in this boat and it’s tragic. It’s cruel, honestly.”

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15 thoughts on “JPL Employees to Protest Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

  • There is a lot in this article that I take issue with. Here are the big ones:
    1. JPL is not in control of this mandate, the date, the specifics and the mandate behind it come from the federal government. JPL is a federal facility with contractors working on it and falls inside the mandate squarely, with no way to say “no we won’t comply” without consequences for JPL as a whole.
    2. The vaccines that are being requires are not experimental as stated in the article, even if that’s a direct quote, it’s a quote of a easily verifiable falsehood.
    3. This article is ignoring the long history of government dictations of vaccines. This is not new and, again, this isn’t JPL mandating, it’s the federal government.
    4. While the JPL method of exemptions seems less than ideal to the quoted individual, it’s also a process not entirely in their hands. Again, FEDERAL mandate, so exemptions they make need to be adequate according to NASA/federal gov and that isn’t obvious yet so JPL is doing what they can within that framework.

  • JPL had 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19 last week with only 2093 people on lab. This is a rate of 20.5 per 100,000 per day. The LA County rate (per Washington Post) is 10.9, about half. JPL is a hot spot. So these employees’ are going to keep the pandemic going and keep us in masks for the foreseeable future.
    What about my freedom to work in a safe environment?

  • Goes to show that even really smart people can be incredibly dumb. What these folks are asking for isn’t the “freedom to choose what goes into their bodies,” they’re asking for the freedom put others at risk through their own selfishness. You don’t want to get the vaccine? Fine, then stop being part of society and just keep yourself and your family members in your house all day every day. If that doesn’t sound like fun, then take the slightest bit of personal responsibility for your fellow human beings and get the shot.

  • This is not a mandate for a vaccine this is to see how they can control US citizens! We have the right to bear arms in this country and the right to choose what we will do with her body.
    Since his presidents been in office he started on a path of destroying this country and taking away our rights and giving them the people that he’s not investing and letting in our borders from all directions or being assaulted! It’s time to take a stand, there are many issues to fight for,But if you don’t stand now you might not have a chance to stand after this and if you don’t stand now who will stand for you? Get up and do it and do it now!

  • I do not care anymore. Let them protest. Your freedom infringes on the health of others, the overcrowded hospitals and your community. Quit being selfish and know your freedom is not at stake- you’re making a choice – hence your have freedom.

  • Article should mention that nearly 6000 JPL employees have been vaccinated. Those that protest the mandate are a minority.

    And it is not an unconditional right to work at JPL. Covid outbreaks can shut the lab down and delay missions (launch windows are short). So I don’t sympathize with someone who may lose their JPL position at the expense of putting thousands of jobs and taxpayer money in jeopardy.

  • They can go ahead and protest. All their protesting does is make those who have taken the other people they work with and their families into consideration, and make them feel even less sympathy for the protestors. If they can prove that they have NEVER been vaccinated, do so. But if they’ve had even a single vaccine, they should no longer qualify to complain or oppose being vaccinated. And if they think that they’ll be able to work at another aerospace company without getting vaccinated, they are sorely mistaken. JPL didn’t make the mandate, the government did. And the government has contracts with all of the viable aerospace companies, so they’ll all be beholden to the same federal mandate.

    Just get vaccinated. If they feel like it’s infringing on their personal rights, what about the rest of us? They are infringing on our rights to be safe and work in a safe environment, and be safe to go home to our families. The government wants us to hold to our deadlines, which is something we can’t do if we are overrun with COVID cases. We lost an employee to COVID. I bet their family wishes we would’ve had a vaccine before they got it and died.

    It’s incredibly sad to me that there are ANY people that work at JPL, one of our greatest institutions of research and thought, and that anyone who works there would turn away from the science is appalling to me. It also goes to show that the Dunning-Kruger effect is a very real thing and that just because someone is educated in one area doesn’t mean that they can’t be completely stupid in area.

  • it is absolutely astounding to me that there would be anyone who would take offense to people who are fighting for their right to bodily autonomy. i stand with JPL and urge them to not be discouraged by this barrage of negative comments. STAND STRONG AND FIGHT

  • Another JPLer here who will refuse to work around some of these people – they have a chat group where they exchange tips on how to game the exemption system. The vast majority of JPL employees are both vaccinated and do NOT want to return to work around people like these.

  • I am thankful for the mandate. This will allow me to return to a safe work environment. The mandate is a elief for a large number of people.
    When the protestors say “my body, my choice,” they are forgetting all of the other bodies they put at risk with their choice. I am done taking risks for other people’s decisions. They are free to remain unvaccinated. They are not free to put others at risk on federal property – or in bars and clubs in L.A. County for that matter.

  • My other comment was removed apparently.

    I am vaccinated and I support the protestors. Vaccines have demonstrated efficacy in greatly reducing risk of hospitalization from covid – people who are vaccinated should not fear people who are not vaccinated. People who are immunocompromised unfortunately are not protected by the vaccines either, since we know that vaccinated people still spread covid.

  • I am a Vietnam Era Navy Veteran, age 70, the son of a 30 year Naval Aviator and Registered Nurse, I am the oldest of 9 children and now the most senior member of my family of 4 generations. In order to have a family wedding celebration, I simply asked my brothers and sisters to make sure all of us got vaccinated for our first get together in 5 years. And everyone eligible for vaccines complied for a safe and healthy reunion. The only loss was the father of the groom, who died a month before the wedding from the virus. It was not my business to ask if he was vaccinated. I respected the family’s privacy on that issue. My niece’s stepson will not have a grandfather to help guide him in his early life. My point is, the JPL employees fighting the mandate have that right to not get the shots but the freedom that they really want is realized after getting vaccinated. Freedom from the horrible suffering and death from the virus is the goal. The mandate I used as the older brother was simple: to get vaccinated for the safety of your family and coworkers and friends.