Ford Motor Company officials weigh in as legislature plans to limit business mask mandates

By: and - October 29, 2021 1:33 pm
Tennessee State Capitol (Photo: John Partipilo)

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.

Sen. Page Walley, R-Bolivar (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

“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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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.

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