9/8/21 -- Central Wire President Paul From recently announced that all company employees would be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 29, barring an acceptable exemption request. Below, he shares further thoughts on this with WJI.
WJI: Just how many people does this edict cover, and what has the response been so far?
From: It covers everyone, which is approximately 700 people in 13 facilities in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. I have been overwhelmed with the positive response from employees. It surprised me. There have been some negative calls but many more positive ones. My contact info is posted in all the plants, so anyone can call me to discuss this—good, bad or indifferent—and they do. I have had some interesting conversations with people who felt that they could not speak out in favor of the vaccine inside the facility because some people would get angry. They remained uncommitted and confused about what to do. There was a lot of disinformation being pushed around and politicized, and I suspect that’s commonplace in many companies.
WJI: You didn’t have to do this, so why are you?
From: I am treating this as a health and safety threat. As president and CEO, it’s a lot easier if I apply the science and technology we would use to deal with any workplace hazard. As a virus, it can be stopped, and my job is to stop it. I have to provide the safest workplace I can, that’s my role.
WJI: Are you getting any calls from other manufacturers?
From: As of yesterday, 15, and they all are moving in this direction. All were very concerned about the ramifications but feel this is the way to go.
WJI: Could there be a legal challenge to this by employees?
From: That’s a good question. Yes, there could be, but it could be from both sides, the unvaccinated and the vaccinated. Anyone can hire a lawyer. The unvaccinated can fight it, but the courts seem already to have moved in a firm direction on this. The vaccinated can also demand companies take action to guarantee a safe workplace. I think that is just around the corner actually, and I want to be in front of it. If I can’t provide a safe work environment for the vaccinated, they have every right to challenge us. Should the virus have the capacity to mutate again, and it becomes even more transmissible and deadly, then the situation will change again. I would prefer to deal with this entire situation before that can happen.
WJI: Is your edict the same for all your operations?
From: Yes. Rules for Canada and the U.K. are somewhat different than the U.S., but what we are doing is still fine. The Canadian government just mandated vaccines for all federal employees, air travelers, train travelers and over-night vessel travelers.
WJI: What would you like to say to employees who oppose this?
From: Think of your coworkers. I know of six employees undergoing cancer treatment in our company, and I am sure there are others who have family members facing the same thing. I know of employees whose children have either received organ transplants or have disabilities and health challenges that even without Covid must be hard to cope with. We also have employees who have diabetes and other conditions that compromised their immune systems. Do you really want to expose them to this risk?
That also goes for other company owners: do you want someone inside your factory to become infected and take it home to someone not strong enough to fight this?
Freedom of choice I understand, but it goes hand in hand with a greater responsibility. Thankfully we have a number of vaccine choices. We must protect the integrity of our health care system and the professionals who are fighting a minute-by-minute battle to keep people alive.
WJI: How has this situation affected your business?
From: I was born in 1965, and this is my first pandemic. It is a struggle unlike anything I have ever experienced. There is no playbook for this. The last 18 months have been a huge struggle. I spend little time running the business in the traditional sense, buying equipment, considering acquisitions, seeing customers and suppliers, improving operations and developing a better future. I had expected that once the vaccine came out, it would greatly improve things and allow us to get back to “normal.” Now I feel further from normal than ever, but I also believe that the companies that can get past this will have achieved something great, and by doing so they will have benefitted employees, shareholders and society. I truly believe that.