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Pentagon orders Texas contractors to mandate vaccines for employees, despite governor’s ban

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, June 22, 2020. Abbott said on Tuesday that Texas would set a daily record for new coronavirus infections -- more than 5,000. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

Defense contractors and their employees in Texas must get the COVID-19 vaccine despite the governor’s executive order banning vaccine mandates, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The Pentagon, in a statement Thursday, said that federal guidance supersedes local laws, like the executive order issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday. It pointed to federal guidance issued in September.

“These requirements are promulgated pursuant to Federal law and supersede any contrary State or local law or ordinance,” the federal guidance states. “Additionally, nothing in the Task Force Guidance shall excuse noncompliance with any applicable State law or municipal ordinance establishing more protective workplace safety protocols than those established under the Task Force Guidance.”

The Pentagon’s position is important because thousands of employees working for all of the major defense contractors operate in Texas. The aerospace and defense industry employs more than 148,000 in the state, according to the Texas Economic Development Corporation.

Federal contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8 unless they receive a medical or religious exemption.

Raytheon Technologies, which last month said it would require all of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, says as much on its job openings website.

“With employee health and safety as our top priority, Raytheon Technologies is taking action to address the increased risk and uncertainty COVID variants pose in the workplace,” the company states. “Effective November 15, 2021, we will require all newly hired employees in the United States to be fully vaccinated before their start date.”

Earlier this week, Boeing told its 125,000 employees that they must get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Notable contractors and manufacturing in Texas:

  • Lockheed Martin builds the F-35 in Fort Worth and its Missile and Fire Control headquarters is in Dallas
  • Boeing Global Services division is headquartered north of Dallas and it overhauls C-17s, KC-135 and builds the new Air Force One in San Antonio.
  • A number of Raytheon Technologies’ space and intelligence programs are run out of the Dallas area. The company employs more than 8,000 in that state.
  • L3Harris Technologies modifies aircraft in Greenville and Waco.
  • Textron’s Bell is based in Dallas and builds aircraft in Amarillo.

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