PHOTOS BY KURT IMMLER | DGKN
A crowd holds signs Thursday evening protesting The J.M. Smucker Co.’s recent notice to employees that they are expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
DGKN staff report
ORRVILLE Dozens held signs Thursday protesting The J.M. Smucker Co.’s recent vaccine mandate for U.S. salaried employees, and expectation that all U.S. employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The demonstration was advertised as a “peaceful rally for freedom” and information shared called on people to join in “who feel it’s wrong to be fired for your choice.”
The rally was scheduled 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday along Route 57 outside company headquarters just north of downtown Orrville. A storm briefly delayed the rally. Participants cheered as vehicles flashed lights or honked horns. Tractor trailers blasted air horns as they drove by. The business’ parking lots were noticeably empty with the exception of security SUVs in the lots, as well as barricades at the facility’s entrances.
According to a statement from the company emailed to The DGKN: “As the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to affect all aspects of our lives, we believe it’s time to take more aggressive action to stem the devastating impacts of the pandemic on our communities. A vaccinated workplace is critical to both ensuring the health of our employees and our ability to continue supplying safe, quality food for people and pets. To ensure compliance with new guidance released as part of the Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, and in alignment with our unwavering commitment to employee safety, we have announced a vaccine mandate for U.S. salaried employees.
“Our approximately 2,600 U.S. salaried employees will be required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment by December 15, 2021, with accommodations considered for legally protected medical or religious exemptions,” the statement continues. “While not currently a condition of employment for hourly Manufacturing & Distribution employees, we do expect all U.S. employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In the weeks ahead, we will maintain our commitment to promoting vaccination through employee education, access to on-site vaccination at locations across our footprint and a monetary incentive for those who comply by Dec. 1, 2021.”