Vans employees protest against sneaker brand’s vaccination mandate



A small group of employees at Vans’ global headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif., Protest a company vaccination mandate, saying their employer should not force them to take a coronavirus vaccine. A source of the brand estimates that about thirty people participate in the demonstration. At the Vans campus in California, they set out empty sneakers in a yard, attaching notes to them explaining their reasoning.

“No one should be forced to decide between getting the vaccine that doesn’t work and feeding their family,” read a handwritten letter. “You have loyal employees, we don’t deserve this. “

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines show that they work, reducing the risk of serious illness by 90% in people who are fully vaccinated.

Images of the protest were shared on Instagram on Wednesday by Josh Harmony, a former professional skater who now works for Vans. According to his LinkedIn profile, Harmony has been employed at Vans since November 2019 as a Wholesale Marketing Coordinator.

“Personally, I’m not against vaccines but whether you’re vaccinated for rona or not, these vaccine warrants and passports should be for everyone,” Harmony wrote in her post. “The loss of medical autonomy is a slippery slope.

Harmony did not respond to a request for comment. In an Instagram photo, he appears next to Johnny Layton, another former pro now employed by Vans. In the photo, Layton is holding a sign reading, “Dear Vans, please do not participate in discrimination. Please respect the medical and religious rights of your employees.

VF Corporation, owner of Vans, sent an email to its employees in the United States on October 18 explaining a new set of rules regarding mandatory vaccination. The email, which was viewed by Complex, introduces a new phase of COVID-19 vaccination protocols requiring vaccination by January 1, 2022, for all office workers, employees attending events of the company, employees of distribution centers and operational service centers. , and any new hires in these groups. The protocol also requires that visitors, vendors, contractors and consultants visiting VFC facilities present proof of vaccination.

The email explaining the warrant has specific language allowing religious and medical exemptions.

“Associates who cannot receive a vaccine for a medical reason, sincere religious belief, or other exemption under national or local law may request accommodation / exemption no later than November 30, 2021 to ensure January 1, 2022 the deadline has been met ”, we can read.

The email says people with exemptions will likely still need to wear N-95 or equivalent masks at VFC facilities and undergo periodic testing for COVID-19. He also asks unvaccinated associates who do not plan to file an exemption request to notify the company.

Employees who do not have an approved exemption by January 1 of next year will be required to work from home this month, the email says. By January 31, 2022, any associate who is not fully vaccinated or does not have an approved exemption will be separated from the company without severance pay.

The protest at Vans began on December 1, the day after the deadline for employees to request exemptions from the vaccine mandate.

“The 30 was the deadline for submitting the medical or religious exemption request form,” said an employee who works at the Costa Mesa headquarters and asked to remain anonymous. “These pranksters had more than a month to fill out this document, then protest the next day that they had no choice in the matter? They did it. And they missed their opportunity.

Vans employee and former professional skater Josh Harmony posted photos of the event. Image via Harmony on Instagram

Vans says that while he supports the right of employees to voice their opinions, he remains firm on the mandate.

“As a people-focused company built on creative self-expression, we fully support members of our Vans family who speak out on topics that are important to them,” Vans said in a statement to Complex. “That said, our vaccine requirement for U.S.-based employees remains in place as we continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the safest possible environment for all of our associates as we resume the in-person collaboration and are working in our facilities. “

Harmony, the former professional skater, isn’t the only person associated with Vans posting information about the protest on social media. A man identifying himself as Joseph Anthony Colon, using Instagram ID @ freesince.1776, has a 32-minute video from November 29 on his page discussing vaccination warrants.

He speaks in general terms, omitting the name of the company he is speaking to for what he says is “for privacy and legal purposes,” but his Instagram stories feature videos of the protest, and a source at Vans identified him as a working security guard. on the company’s campus. In his half-hour video, Colon says that he is a security guard but that he is not actually employed by “said company”.

He deliberately omits what he calls the “v word” in the video, presumably a reference to his flagged content if he outwardly mentions vaccinations, and instead uses the word “empty” as a substitute.

“I understand the need to create a safe working environment for all employees and staff who are expected to return next year,” Colon said in the video. “However, forcing your employees to choose between taking a mandatory ‘blank’ to stay hired or risking leaving the company, dismissal without compensation and the destruction of family livelihoods does not take into account freedoms, freedoms and the ability of your employees to create their own personal accounts. the decisions.”

His video also refers to an event scheduled for Wednesday, the same day the protest started in Vans.

Colon did not respond to a request for comment.

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