JUNO BEACH, Fla. — Dozens of Florida Power & Light workers voiced their displeasure with the vaccine mandate that was recently announced by their parent company.
A group of linemen held a demonstration Thursday along U.S. Highway 1 in Juno Beach outside of the company's headquarters.
"It would be great if we had our own choice. It's all we want. We want our own choice if we want the vaccination or not," said Joey Sanders, an FPL lineman. "We're not all against it. We're not all for it. Let's have our own choice to do it, that’s it."
Chopper 5 flew over the scene at about 9:30 a.m. and spotted a group of people holding American flags and signs that read "The Final Variant is Communism" and "My Last Day at FPL is Jan. 10."
"The company has done a great job so far making sure that people are safe, with the testing and all those things. I applaud FPL for that. They have done a great job doing that, and it's a great company to work for," said Jennifer, an FPL lineman's wife.
The CEO of NextEra Energy sent a memo on Nov. 1 stating that all employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than Jan. 10.
CEO Jim Robo stated in the letter that "several colleagues" had passed away from the virus.
"Yet, as we have continued to witness growing evidence as to the vaccine's strong efficacy and safety, we have watched as unvaccinated employees and their families experience firsthand the largely avoidable effects of COVID-19," Robo said in the memo.
The company's CEO said 80 percent of NextEra Energy employees have already been fully vaccinated.
"I recognize that not everyone will agree with this decision, but it is the right thing to do for our customers, who depend on each of us to provide the essential service of delivering power to tens of millions of Americans," Robo said.
The lineman's wife said she would like to see an expansion on vaccine exemptions and regular COVID-19 testing moving forward.
"We just think they caved to the pressure. They need to rethink what they're doing. People are willing to be safe. We want to be safe," Jennifer said. "We just don't want to be told that you have to take the jab or you lose your job."
FPL released the following statement regarding Thursday's protest:
"We take very seriously our duty to keep the lights on for more than 11 million Floridians, which is an essential service that is the lifeblood of our state’s $1.1 trillion economy. Providing electricity to Floridians demands that we are doing everything that is reasonably possible to protect the collective health and safety of our FPL family and our customers, which is why we are requiring our employees to be vaccinated. This is a science and data-driven decision that we believe is the right thing to do for everyone who depends on us to provide their power no matter the circumstances.
We respect the rights of those to peacefully assemble. As a precaution, we are working with local law enforcement officials to ensure FPL's facilities remain secure and the public is protected. This allows us to meet our commitment to deliver clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy to our customers."
"I think people are not thinking big picture. People are just thinking, 'Oh, there's a few people who won't comply, and they'll lose their job, but that won't impact me,'" Jennifer said. "But it's going to impact each and every person that uses electricity in the state of Florida."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been adamant against requiring workers to be vaccinated against the virus, saying last week that the state will be suing the federal government to stop the new rules from taking effect.
The federal policy would affect tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees.
A federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily blocked the Biden administration's new vaccine rules.
However, the White House said Monday that businesses should move forward with the requirements despite the ruling.