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Union Pacific Railroad enacts federal vaccine mandate

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 1:32 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2021 at 3:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Union Pacific Railroad is the latest company to board the mandatory vaccine train.

The company’s 31,000 employees across 23 states have been given just under two months to comply or face additional consequences.

All of those employees received an email recently offering them information about the vaccine, options for places to get the shot, and guidelines for how and when they would need to have vaccine records submitted.

The company’s spokesperson tells 6 News: “After reviewing the White House’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Union Pacific is complying with the executive order requiring employees of federal contractors be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8. As a federal contractor who ships goods supporting our nation’s armed services, Union Pacific is fulfilling this federal requirement. All employees are required to report their vaccination status or have an approved medical or religious accommodation by the federally mandated deadline.”

As an incentive, Union Pacific said managers will receive a vacation incentive, and unionized employees will be offered incentive pay. Employees are also encouraged to receive their vaccination outside of work hours; if unable to do so, they may follow standard time-off or lay-off processes.

UP doesn’t have vaccine rates available for their employees, so there isn’t currently a breakdown of how many of their thousands of employees have at least one dose. They also didn’t make it immediately clear whether employees would be terminated, should they refuse to get vaccinated.

Under President Biden’s plan, federal employees can request religious or medical exemptions and if granted, they are still required to mask up, social distance and potentially be subject to consistent COVID-19 testing.

But some believe the mandate is an overreach. One local employee said the whole process just feels rushed.

“I understand why the mandate has been put in place; however, I am concerned about the long-term effects and how aggressively the vaccine is being pushed out. I believe in maintaining autonomy over one’s own body,” said the employee, who wished to remain anonymous.

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