NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News Shipbuilding, one of the largest employers in Hampton Roads, says all of its roughly 25,000 workers will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 as a “condition of continued employment.”

59% of the shipyard’s employees were vaccinated as of Sept. 30.

Huntington Ingalls COO Chris Kastner notified employees in a memo on Wednesday, days after company president Mike Petters told employees of the Dec. 8 deadline.

In the letter on Sept. 24, Petters did not yet indicate employees would be fired, but said the company was still evaluating the details of the Sept. 9 mandate issued by President Joe Biden that says all employees of the executive branch of the federal government, including contractors, would have to be vaccinated and do not have the option to do regular testing instead. Employees of private businesses with 100 or more employees (about 80 million Americans) do have the option of getting tested.

Updated guidance from the White House released Sept. 24 says the mandates apply for contractors “except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation.” Contractor employees working on a covered contract from home are also required to comply with the vaccination requirement.

In the memo, Kastner said “while we are discussing the effects of this mandate with our union partners, it will be a condition of continued employment for our workforce to be fully vaccinated by the above date … as a result, we must get started right away to ensure we are compliant by December 8, 2021 in requiring vaccination of all HII employees and contractors.”

To meet the deadline, all employees and contractors must schedule their first vaccine shot by October 27.

The shipyard has been encouraging employees to get vaccinated and offering vaccine clinics on-site. They’re even raffling off “thank you bonuses” to fully vaccinated employees.

Legal action has been threatened nationwide over the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates, but mandates do have support of about 60% of Americans. And while some employees have threatened to quit over the mandates, data shows few actually do. 

Rather than large numbers of resignations, mandates appear to be leading to an uptick in vaccinations, NPR reports. More than 80% of Virginian adults now have at least one dose of the vaccine.

Completed religious accommodation forms for Newport News Shipbuilding employees must be notarized using non-company resources and submitted no later than midnight on Oct. 13, 2021. Completed medical request forms must be submitted as soon as possible and no later than midnight on Oct. 29, 2021. Forms should be submitted to or in the secure drop box located in the lobby of Building 520. The drop box will be available beginning Tuesday, Oct. 5. The requests for exemption may not be granted if they don’t meet the legal requirements.