President Joe Biden delayed the deadline for federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by about a month on Thursday, but how many employees Bath Iron Works could lose over the mandate and the impact the loss would have on production remain unclear.

According to a statement the Biden Administration released Thursday, federal contractor employees like BIW shipbuilders “will need to have their final vaccination dose – either their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or single dose of Johnson & Johnson – by January 4, 2022.”

BIW does not have the option to allow unvaccinated employees to be tested for COVID-19 each week instead of getting the inoculation because the shipyard builds ships for the Navy, making it a federal contractor. Workers can, however, request a medical or religious exemption to the mandate.

The shipyard on Thursday declined to answer questions on how many workers might walk away from their jobs rather than get vaccinated, how many employees have already left their jobs over the mandate, how many have applied for religious or medical exemptions, as well as the company’s contingency plan.

Meanwhile, the Local S6 union, which represents over half of the workforce, stated it is “not against vaccines” but “disagrees with the vaccine mandate” in an announcement to members.

“We are pro-choice,” Local S6 leaders wrote in the Oct. 19 announcement. “We also believe the vaccine is good for public health and safety. However, we must stand and protect our membership’s jobs as best as we can. … Forcing our members to choose between their beliefs or their livelihood is unfair.”


In the same announcement, the union indicated the company could lose about 30% of its workforce over the mandate. However, Local S6 Spokesperson Tim Suitter said Wednesday he “wouldn’t dare say” how many employees the union believes may quit over the issue because “a lot of it is speculation.”

This possibility of losing workers comes after years of hiring a barrage of new employees in an effort to both replace retiring workers and boost the shipyard’s production speed. The shipyard hired and trained nearly 1,800 employees in 2019 and added about 1,000 more last year, bringing the shipyard’s total workforce to roughly 7,400.

Dean Grazioso, a BIW sandblaster of 33 years, estimated about 50% of the workforce is vehemently against getting vaccinated, including himself.

“I’m not anti-vaccination by any means, but I am anti-mandate,” said Grazioso. “I don’t want the government forcing me to get a shot that I deem unnecessary because it’s not a true vaccination. If it was a one-time shot that would eradicate (COVID-19) throughout the world, I’m sure everyone would be lined up to get it.”

Grazioso compared the COVID-19 vaccine to an annual flu shot  because believes it’s “something we’ll have to get every year.”

“I’m willing to roll the dice and I don’t want someone telling me I have to get a shot when I don’t want it,” he said.


Though people are receiving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, researchers remain unsure about how frequently and for how long people will need to receive booster shots to keep their immunity against the virus, according to a Sept. 23 publication by Dr. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention, and Dr. Gabor Kelen, director of Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response.

Like Grazioso, Jacob Fusco, a BIW sandblaster of two years, said he’s not fond of the mandate, but said he received the COVID-19 vaccine to keep his job.

“I don’t like the government trying to force me to do things, but if it comes to my job, I’m saving my job,” said Fusco. “I’m 24, and there’s nothing in the world that’s going to take this career from me. This is everything to me and I’m willing to take that shot to save my career.”

BIW Electrician Paul Winslow said he’s unbothered by the mandate because he was vaccinated before he was hired in May. Winslow said he received the vaccine because he’s a caretaker for his father.

“He’s 62 with COPD and diabetes and was a smoker for 35 years,” said Winslow. “I knew that if I got (COVID-19), the only way he’d get it is through me. I’ll do whatever I can to lower the chances of him getting it.”

While some shipbuilders are or will soon be vaccinated, psychologists said those strongly opposed to the vaccine may be unlikely to change their tune when surrounded by people of the same mindset, even when their job or health is at stake.


Psychologist Don Forsyth said a psychological phenomenon called groupthink, or the “excessive dependency on others for information, claims of moral goodness, a sense of shared identity, isolation from other groups, anxiety and stress, and self-congratulatory enthusiasm” is likely to blame.

He said people tend to turn to their social groups in stressful or uncertain situations, like a pandemic, and adopt the views of those around them. Those people will then likely reject the guidance of officials if they don’t align with the views of those in their social group.

To make matters more complicated, those under the influence of groupthink likely won’t realize how much their beliefs and actions are being influenced by those around them, said Forsyth.

“Instead, they pride themselves on their independence, when in fact they are conformists—not conforming to the authorities mandates, but conforming to the social pressure of their small cliques of friends and work associates,” said Forsyth. “They often assume that they have objectively reviewed the facts and have based their response on this rational analysis, when in actuality their responses are determined by other people.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.