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Federal contractors: Vaccine mandate could drain economy

The Biden administration’s deadline will affect millions of workers across industries


Employees at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, protest vaccine mandates on Oct. 22. Associated Press/Photo by Josh Reynolds

Federal contractors: Vaccine mandate could drain economy

Hundreds of General Electric employees at plants in New York and South Carolina took to the streets in October to protest mandatory vaccines. As a federal contractor, the facility must ensure its employees are vaccinated or fire them under emergency public health guidelines. In Pinellas Park, Fla., on Wednesday, a handful of Lockheed Martin employees took time off to picket, demanding that they be given alternatives to vaccination. One worker of nearly two decades told a local cable news channel, Bay News 9, “I’m very afraid of losing my job, but not afraid enough to put something in me my religion stands against and that my morals stand against.”

President Joe Biden unveiled the Path Out of the Pandemic Plan on Sept. 9, a sweeping agenda to vaccinate America’s workforce. The plan initially ordered all federal employees, including contractors, to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 8, but updated guidelines released on Thursday changed the deadline to Jan. 4. The rules cover roughly 5 million contractors in companies ranging from the technology industry like Google to defense contractors like Lockheed Martin or transportation workers like the Teamsters Union. Pleas from contractors and unions gearing up for holiday rushes amid worker shortages spurred the White House to offer some leeway.

On Thursday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published nearly 500 pages of regulations on how companies, federal employees, and federal contractors should comply with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate. The regulations do not apply to those working from home or in outdoor jobs. OSHA stipulates that companies do not need to pay for weekly testing but must require unvaccinated employees to wear masks and produce a negative COVID-19 test week. Companies must also offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated starting Dec. 5.

Contractors who do not comply with the mandate must pay $14,000 for each infraction, with higher fees for intentional noncompliance. But OSHA itself faces an inspector shortage, with only 1,850 inspectors to oversee 130 million U.S. workers at 8 million workplaces. It has not clarified how it will enforce the mandate.

The Q&A page on the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s website instructs contractors to treat termination as a last resort. If employees still reject the coronavirus vaccine, the administration recommends a “limited period of counseling and education, followed by additional disciplinary measures if necessary.”

The new guidelines give companies flexibility on how they want to enforce the vaccine mandate, and as long as federal contractors show that they are working toward vaccination, they will not face hefty fines. The White House move is partially intended to prevent mass worker shortages right before the Christmas rush.

Federal contractor shortages can have far-reaching effects, especially in tech and transportation industries. Truck drivers across the country are pulling extra shifts as companies scurry to relieve supply chain bottlenecks. The American Trucking Association recently reported a shortage of 80,000 drivers due to retirements, burnouts, and fewer new hires. The ATA told the Biden administration it might drop federal contracts rather than destabilize its already-declining workforce. A company survey found the corporation could lose 37 percent of its drivers if forced to comply with the vaccine mandate. Roughly 50 percent of the ATA workforce is fully vaccinated.

“The first rule of any public health policy should be ‘do no harm.’ Unfortunately, these latest mandates and the unintended consequences they’ll create fall short of that standard,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a public statement. “[The vaccine mandate] threatens to cause further disruptions throughout the supply chain, impeding our nation’s COVID response efforts and putting the brakes on any economic revival.”

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 37 percent of unvaccinated workers would leave their jobs if an employer required vaccination even if they were offered a testing alternative. If no testing option was available, the number increased to 72 percent.

Raytheon Technologies, one of the nation’s largest defense contractors, warned that vaccine mandates will likely strain the supply chain further and cost the company roughly 1,000 workers. But the company also reiterated that protecting employees from COVID-19 will ensure work stability in the long run. The White House has taken the same position. Coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients has argued coronavirus infections among transit workers and federal contractors stand to hurt the supply chain more than vaccine mandates do.

On Nov. 3, Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., and 40 other senators challenged Biden’s vaccine mandate. They intend to leverage the Congressional Review Act to nullify the executive rule, arguing that it constitutes a government overreach.

“President Biden is playing a game of chicken with Oklahomans’ lives and livelihoods. No one should have to choose between their job and their personal healthcare decisions,” wrote Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

The Biden administration faces legal attacks from state governments, as well. Nineteen states filed four lawsuits against the federal government last week. Missouri filed one on behalf of 10 Republican-led states. Georgia joined ranks with Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia, while Texas and Florida submitted separate suits. Each case lambasts Biden for overreach and asks a judge to block the vaccine mandate on the grounds that it violates federal procurement law. The states also argue it strips 10th Amendment rights from state governments and violates proper procedure by skipping a 60-day public comment period.

“The Biden Administration has repeatedly expressed its disdain for Americans who choose not to get a vaccine,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “If the president thinks his patience is wearing thin, he is clearly underestimating the lack of patience from Texans whose rights he is infringing.”


Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College graduate. She resides in Harrisburg, Pa.

@CarolinaLumetta

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DWES4537

Again, you are presenting the wrong argument. The argument should be: 1. Why are therapeutic solutions being denied as effective when doctors all over the world are using them quite effectively? 2. Why was the source of the wuflu denied so vehemently and why is no one being prosecuted for the design and release? 3. Why is a crappy vaccine with no long term trials being forced on everyone? And yet here we are writing articles about whether or not government mandate might be ok or not. World now is the time for some journalism. Seek truth.

NanamiroDWES4537

I couldn't agree with you more. There are so many good questions that, regrettably, WORLD hasn't asked.

Glong

The better alternative to vaccine mandates would be antibody testing. If an individual has had COVID, even asymptomatic, a positive antibody test should be the equivalent of the vaccine. And don't forget (which the government seems to have ignored) is that even vaccinated individuals can carry and transmit the virus. I'm vaccinated and choose to believe that vaccination prevents serious illness, but the lack of logic in the governmental approach is beyond my comprehension.

FIMIKIGlong

The question as to weather the vaccine is effective and reasonably safe for most people is an objective one, and one that has been decisively answered in the affirmative. However, like all vaccines there are rare adverse side effects and I can certainly understand why someone would be apprehensive about being injected with something that's known to have caused deaths in some, even if it will from a statistical perspective lower their overall chance of death and sickness. The aggressive approach from governments around the world - 100% vaccination or bust - is boggling.

Janet S

If the vaccine works why are vaccinated people so afraid of the unvaccinated ? But the bigger problem is government overreach. Do we really want the government mandating every aspect of our lives. There is no end to their hunger for power. Just look at our southern border-why do you think all those people are rushing to get in. Just maybe they want free from oppressive governments. Perhaps all who are terrified of a virus should be a little more terrified of DC.

RCRE8109

I appreciate the freedom of choice to not get vaccinated. The worker should not lose their job over such a situation, but the unvaccinated employee must also recognize the risk they are putting their employer at by their choice.
I would say that employees who refuse to get vaccinated meet the following:
1. Provide their own reasonable safety devices (masks, etc.) to protection others they come into contact with, at their own expense.
2. Meet any reasonable employer Covid-19 testing requirements, again at their own expense.
3. Then provide a Bond (a guarantee for a substantial cash payment) for the expense and loss to their employer, other employees, customers or visitors the unvaccinated employee comes in contact with and infects with the Covid-19 virus.
I do not think it is unreasonable for people to bear the responsibility for their choices.

GlongRCRE8109

The problem with your #3 is that even with contact tracing you can't PROVE that a single contact with a given individual is the source of infection given the numerous contacts that people have in their ordinary, everyday lives.

RCRE8109Glong

I agree with you. It would be near impossible to PROVE who infected someone. The majority of the antivaxxers are all about the fear of injury to themselves. It’s all me, me, me! No thought or concern for how their decisions impact others. I just want them to put their money where their mouth is.

Janet SRCRE8109

Even the vaccinated can be carriers.

FIMIKIRCRE8109

A much more reasonable proposal! The problem posed by people without any immunity to covid spreading it to others is an example of a negative externality, or a cost borne by others (employees, customers or visitors) not party to a decision (an employee who eschews vaccination). Those are best resolved by internalizing the externality and ensuring the person making the decision bears the full cost of his or her action.

NanamiroFIMIKI

If the vaccines work, how is someone not being vaccinated harming a vaccinated person? I do not fear someone with measles, because I am vaccinated. I do not fear someone with chicken pox, because I had chicken pox. I don't fear being around someone vaccinated against the flu, if I have the flu. That's the beauty of vaccines!
If we are going to make people "bear the full cost of his or her actions," Covid-vax-enthusiasts should be demanding reparations for those harmed by these vaccines. As far as I know, that is not happening on any level.

FIMIKINanamiro

Unfortunately the virus is a wily target. Vaccination or past infection doesn't offer 100% protection, especially for the aged and vulnerable. They also don't offer a 100% reduction in transmission, so a fair system should focus on the effective difference between someone with immunity and someone without it, not a binary yes/no.

It's not exactly speedy (no claims for covid have been payed out so far) but anyone harmed by vaccines or drugs approved for use during an emergency (like covid or the Asian flu) can seek compensation via the CICP program. Here's a table of all the claims filed, approved, and rewarded:

https://www.hrsa.gov/cicp/cicp-data

NanamiroRCRE8109

What risk does the employee put the employer at?
The problem with all your requirements is that you ignore the fact that:
1. Vaccinated people also contract and pass on Covid-19 to others, from and to vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Therefore, they should also be wearing masks and testing. To not require that would be to put public health at risk.
2. People being harmed by the vaccines are receiving no compensation by either the vaccine manufacturers, government or businesses who require them.
3. Vaccinated people are not being tested like unvaccinated people are, so they are unknowingly infecting those around them.