Tennessee State Capitol (Photo: John Partipilo)
An official with the Ford Motor Company has sent Tennessee Senators a text thanking them for the nearly $900 million incentive package approved last week, but has let them know the company is concerned about an effort to prohibit Tennessee companies from enforcing mask mandates for their employees.
A top Ford official sent senators a text message early Friday — reviewed by the Tennessee Lookout — stating, “Thanks for all the recent help with the funding package! We are very concerned, however, with the current legislative proposal that would prohibit companies from requiring masks. Wearing masks is what’s kept our facilities running through this.”
The company’s objections could throw a wrench in the plans to pass a comprehensive and sweeping package that would restrict the ability of private business to implement COVID safety measures including mask mandates, vaccine and testing requirements.
During a Senate committee hearing Friday morning, Sen. Page Walley, R-Bolivar, alluded to the misgivings the communications from Ford Motor Company officials have brought to their deliberations.
“It seems like only a short week ago we were here having conversations on a remarkable economic development and social change opportunity,” Walley said.
“I’m very concerned we don’t adversely impact that with this legislation and what Ford is attempting to achieve and what they say has been critical for them to be able to manage their operations and stay open in other parts of the state with their ability to utilize masking requirements.
“I’m not going to be comfortable unless we have a plan on how we’re going to address this.”
The Senate and House COVID-19 omnibus bills are likely headed for a conference committee where lawmakers plan to work out differences and satisfy the request of Ford Motor Co.
Sen. Walley said Friday afternoon a solution is being prepared that will allay the concerns Ford has about legislation that would prohibit the company from requiring workers to wear masks at its plants.
The House bill, which has not been approved yet, would prohibit public and private companies from mandating masks for workers, while the Senate version would prohibit public employers and private companies that receive public funds from requiring masks. Both bills also contain restrictions on vaccine mandates.
Ford received an incentive package of $900 million for its proposed $5.6 billion plant where it plans to hire 5,800 employees at the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally also said Friday afternoon legislative leaders are “massaging” the omnibus bill to satisfy Ford’s concerns.
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