Companies plan to end government contracts on vaccine mandate
Sullivan’s remarks are among the business community’s sharpest warnings to date on the residual impacts of the vaccines mandate. In September, Biden signed an executive order requiring all federal employees and federal contractors to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, with no option to opt out by performing weekly Covid testing. In addition, Biden called for vaccine requirements for any private company employing more than 100 workers. Private employees, however, can opt out by submitting to tests.
The demands have led to a noticeable increase in vaccination rates in various industries. Public health officials credited them with helping the country stem the spread of the Delta variant. And the White House is pointing the finger at big companies like United Airlines and Tyson who have seen overwhelming compliance among their workforces. United Airlines announced in September that 97 percent of its employees had been vaccinated, demonstrating that there is only a small fraction of those opposed to the mandate and that in the end, the mandate worked.
But interviews with more than a dozen industry advocates in the aerospace, distribution, defense and trucking sectors – some of whom have also been in discussions with administration officials – reveal that they have little confidence in their ability to meet the Dec. 8 deadline for their workers to receive their first vaccine or have expressed concern about the challenges the mandate would pose to their workforce.
The White House has repeatedly insisted – both in private meetings and publicly – that federal contractors can avoid potential service disruptions during the holiday season. The Biden administration says companies don’t need to lay off their employees on Dec. 8, but instead should start advising them on the benefits of the vaccine and the ramifications of non-compliance.
Some industry advocates say they are encouraged by the public comments from the head of the Covid task force, Jeff Zients, who reassured that the mandate should not disrupt vacation services. And an official said that in private meetings, Zients expressed sympathy and understanding of the challenges industries face.
“So these processes take place over weeks, not days,” Zients said in a press release last week. “And so, to be clear, we are creating flexibility within the system. We provide many opportunities for people to get vaccinated. There is no cliff here.
But that wasn’t enough to allay all the anxiety among federal contractors. The trucking industry and the air cargo industry have directly asked the Biden administration to extend its deadline or grant an exemption to their employees. Additional requests for mandate easing were raised at a meeting last week between federal contractors and the Defense Department, according to a person briefed on the meeting.
Among the requests from federal contractors: an extension of the deadline until 2022, consider allowing a testing option for employees of federal contractors and completely eliminating the requirements.
“It’s going to become extremely difficult if they don’t bow,” an official at a major distribution company said of the White House.
Last week, the Cargo Airline Association, a trade group whose members include UPS, FedEx and Amazon, asked the administration to extend the deadline until the first half of 2022, citing a likely disruption in services that would only do worsen supply chain delays if companies be forced to impose the mandate to vaccinate employees.
“As everyone enters their peak season, the administration’s mandate on the COVID-19 vaccine for government contractors threatens to be a major stumbling block in serving our customers over the holidays,” he said. writes Stephen Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. “This Dec. 8 mandate comes at a time when the industry is already facing a growing shortage of workers – a shortage that is likely to spread if employees decide to quit or retire rather than get vaccinated. “
But when asked at Wednesday’s White House press conference about the trucking industry’s request that the administration extend OSHA’s deadline for the first vaccine, the press secretary Jen Psaki said there are no plans to change the schedule.
In trucking, where the average vaccination rate among carriers surveyed was 50 percent in September according to the ATA, concern about the impact of warrants on the supply chain is acute. In a letter to Acting White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Sharon Block provided to POLITICO, ATA estimated that companies affected by the warrants could lose up to 37% of their drivers based on a survey.
A White House official argued in an interview that the spread of Covid-19 among unvaccinated employees – not the vaccine requirement – was one of the biggest potential disruptions to services these companies face.
“When you look at the challenges, it’s huge in terms of people getting sick, other close contacts needing to be quarantined, the major impact on businesses, as well as the impact that has on. their customers and the engagement of those customers, ”said a White House official who is part of the Covid task force. “It is important to keep in mind that the basis of the Federal EO entrepreneur was to ensure economy and efficiency. “
But industrial groups are not moving. In addition to terminating their government contracts, at least one organization is considering legal action. In light of the vaccine mandate offered to employers with more than 100 employees, American Trucking Associations CEO Chris Spear said the group was “looking at all options.” Sullivan said a lawsuit over warrants was still on the table.
Republicans, who have made resistance to vaccine warrants a central talking point, are already continuing. On Friday, a coalition of ten GOP-led states filed a complaint about the federal contractor’s tenure. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also filed a similar complaint.
“This takeover is far-reaching,” reads the complaint from the 10 states. “Employees of federal contractors make up one-fifth of the total United States workforce. And the mandate goes so far as to require the vaccination even of employees who work entirely from their homes. It is unconstitutional, illegal and reckless. “
The Biden administration says it has given companies plenty of leeway in how they enforce the new vaccine warrant rules, which should ensure there is no disruption to the busy holiday season . This is because the administration allows companies to institute their own enforcement measures with employees who refuse to be vaccinated. The White House said it was not recommending that contractors immediately remove these employees from work, but rather demonstrate that they were making a good faith effort to get this person to comply.