GOP state officials push back on employer vaccine mandate

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Republican governors, lawmakers and attorneys general are building a wall of opposition to President Joe Biden’s plan to require vaccination or COVID-19 testing at all private employers of 100 or more workers.

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Little Rock, Ark. – Republican state officials on Thursday reacted with a quick rebuke to President Joe Biden’s newly expanded mandate for private employers that requires workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, leading to lawsuits A wave is threatened and other actions are threatened to thwart a need. As a vivid example of government overreach.

At least two conservative groups moved swiftly to file lawsuits against the workplace safety mandate, and a growing roster of GOP governors and attorneys general said more lawsuits were underway as of Friday. Some Republican-led states have already passed laws or executive orders that seek to protect employers who don’t want to comply.

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“This rule is garbage,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, said Thursday through a spokesman. “It is unconstitutional and we will fight it.” His state’s governor, Republican Henry McMaster, said he plans to issue an executive order preventing state agencies from enforcing the rule.

States have been preparing for the requirement since Biden’s preview in September. Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, issued Thursday, for companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly by January 4. Failure to comply can result in a fine of approximately $14,000 per violation. Federal officials also left open the possibility of expanding the mandate to smaller employers.

The White House said the administration has the authority to take action designed to protect workers and expects the rule to face legal challenges.

Robert Alt, a lawyer representing the Midwest companies—manufacturer Philips Manufacturing & Tower Company and packaging firm Sixerp—said both companies are already facing staff shortages amid the pandemic. He said the mandate would only make things worse.

“It adds insult to injury and forces them to lay off potentially trained employees,” said Alt, president and CEO of The Buckeye Institute, a conservative advocacy group.

The states say they are focusing on the federal government’s role in the lawsuits they are preparing.

“While I believe that the vaccine is the tool that will best protect against COVID-19, this federal government’s approach is unprecedented and will bring harmful, unintended consequences to the supply chain and workforce,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement.

At a news conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized what he called an “executive legal order” for the private sector. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds described the mandate as imposing on personal preference, adding that people should be able to make their own health care decisions. She recently signed a bill that guarantees that people who have been fired for refusing a vaccine can qualify for unemployment benefits.

At least 19 Republican-led states previously sued the Biden administration over a separate mandate requiring vaccines for employees working for federal contractors. Several more filed similar lawsuits on Thursday.

Biden, in a statement Thursday, dismissed the argument of several GOP governors and lawmakers that a mandate for employers would hurt businesses’ ability to hire workers.

“There have been no ‘mass shootings’ and worker shortages due to vaccination requirements,” he said. “Despite what some have predicted and falsely claimed, vaccination requirements have widespread public support.”

The administration is encouraging widespread vaccination as the fastest way out of the pandemic. A White House spokeswoman, Karine Jean-Pierre, said during a briefing on Thursday that the mandate was aimed at stopping the spread of a disease that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the US.

“So you know, the question that we always have and that we ask Republicans, why are they getting in the way?” said Jean-Pierre. “Why are they getting in the way of trying to protect and save lives? That’s just what we’re trying to do.”

Challenges to workplace mandates from Republican and conservative groups are expected to be broad-based and accelerated, reflecting another aspect of the COVID-19 response – from mask requirements to social-distancing guidelines – that has fallen into a partisan divide. Has been. The Democratic governor and attorney general were relatively calm after the OSHA rules were announced on Thursday. From California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a simple Twitter message: “Right move.” Another Democrat, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, defended the mandate in an emailed statement to the Associated Press.

Laura Kelly, the Democratic governor in Republican-dominated Kansas, was trying to walk a fine line on the new workplace rules. She said Thursday after a Chamber of Commerce event that the federal mandate “doesn’t work” and she wanted a “Kansas-centric” way to meet, but did not give details.

All 26 Republican state attorneys general had previously said they would fight the requirements, and most of them signed a letter to Biden, saying

Key to their objection is whether OSHA has a legal authority to require vaccines or virus testing.

In a letter to Biden, top lawyers for the state government argued that the agency can only handle health risks that are specific to jobs – not those that typically occur in the world. Seema Nanda, the top legal officer for the US Department of Labor, which includes OSHA, says established legal precedent allows for rules that keep workplaces safe and those rules pre-empt state laws.

That hasn’t stopped state lawmakers and governors from taking a variety of actions aimed at undermining the federal mandate.

Greg Abbott of Texas Gov. issued an executive order last month barring private companies or any other entity from requiring vaccines. An Ohio lawmaker has proposed a bill to force schools and colleges to expel students who refuse to vaccinate and prevent employers from firing employees who do so.

Arkansas has adopted a law creating a vaccine-mandated exemption for workers who can prove they have COVID-19 antibodies, though a sweeping measure prohibiting employers from asking about vaccination status failed the Legislature. Stayed. The OSHA rule includes religious exemptions, as well as for people who work exclusively outside or away from others – such as from home.

Lawmakers or governors in states including Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming have called for special legislative sessions to counter the vaccine mandate. In Nebraska, not enough state lawmakers agreed to a special session to get one on the calendar, but Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican in the GOP-dominated state, is pushing him to keep trying.

In Ohio, factory owner Ross McGregor said he would follow the rules as he would any federal workplace mandate, but not because he agreed with them. McGregor, who said he has been vaccinated, is opposed to the new requirement, as he has publicly opposed efforts by Ohio Republican lawmakers to stop mandating a coronavirus vaccine for his workers.

“At the end of the day, every employer, and every employment situation, decides what’s best,” said McGregor, a former Republican state lawmaker and owner of axle and brake component manufacturer Pentaflex, where he estimates about 115 Either half of the staff is vaccinated. “Either banning the mandate or enforcing the mandate is against him”

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This version corrects new paragraph six to say that it is The Daily Wire, not the Daily Caller, that filed the suit, and to remove reference to the lawsuit filed by Indiana, Louisiana and Mississippi. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, addresses a different, narrower mandate for federal contractors.

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Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Tom Davis in Indianapolis; Heather Hollingsworth in Lake Quivira, Kansas; Alexandra Jaffe in Washington, DC; and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report, as well as other journalists from the US.

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