Labor unions sue Biden administration to expand vaccine mandates and cover smaller businesses

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  • The AFL-CIO, the United Food and Commercial Workers and Service Employees International Union challenged the Biden policy in federal appeals courts last week.
  • While they support vaccine and testing requirements, they want the Biden administration’s mandate to cover as many businesses as possible, not just those with 100 or more employees.
  • As unions try to expand mandates, Republican attorney generals are trying to overturn them.

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Many of the nation’s largest labor unions are suing President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements, not to reverse them, but to expand them to cover more businesses.

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the AFL-CIO last week asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the requirements. The AFL-CIO is the largest union of trade unions in the US, and the UFCW is the largest meatpacking and food procession union.

While the unions did not argue in their petition, a spokesperson for the Food Workers’ Union told CNBC that the group wants the mandate expanded to cover as many businesses as possible. The union also wants the new Labor Department rule to ensure that employees do not have to cover the cost of COVID testing and facemasks. The Biden mandate does not compel companies to cover those costs.

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The food workers union said in a statement to CNBC that it wants to “strengthen worker protections to ensure that as many workers as possible are covered, that frontline workers have a voice in how vaccine requirements are implemented.” is done, and that workers do not shoulder the cost of masks, tests or other critical safety measures necessary to keep workers and customers safe.”

The Service Employees International Union also challenged Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last week. SEIU Local 32BJ represents 175,000 workers – primarily manufacturing security guards and cleaners – in New York, New England, parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the DC metro area and Florida.

Service workers said in their petition that Biden policy “fails to adequately protect all workers who face serious risk from exposure to COVID-19 at the workplace.” SEIU 32BJ President Kyle Bragg told CNBC in a statement Friday that his local wants the mandate to be expanded to include all businesses.

Bragg said, “We believe that we all have to do our bit to help our communities return to normalcy and the COVID vaccine or testing mandates to apply even to employers with fewer than 100 employees.” Must be comprehensive.” “The exemptions for these employers undermine the effort to protect public health.”

The Labor Department declined to comment on the unions’ lawsuits. Biden, In a speech shortly after Labor Day, said that he intends to “become the most pro-Union president, leading the most pro-Union administration in American history.”

The AFL-CIO, food workers and service workers unions lobbied White House officials in a conference call with the Office for Management and Budget last month to include mandates that include comprehensive protections for workers, such as ventilation standards and regulations for businesses. Where appropriate to ensure physical distance to the requirements. The administration did not incorporate those measures into its vaccination and testing policy.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which will enforce the mandate for the Labor Department, has said it set the limit in businesses with 100 or more employees because it was confident those companies had the tools to enforce the requirements.

OSHA said it decided to mandate comprehensive COVID mitigation measures across industries because doing so is “an extraordinarily challenging and complex undertaking.” The agency said it had to “act as quickly as possible” to protect workers from the grave danger posed by Covid, and that vaccination is the “single most efficient and effective means” of doing so.

However, OSHA has indicated that it may expand the mandate to cover small businesses and is considering whether to add more requirements to protect employees. The agency is seeking information via a public comment period from companies that have comprehensive protections as well as businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have vaccination and testing requirements.

The Biden administration now faces a legal tussle over vaccine and testing requirements. As labor unions pushed for courts to expand mandates, Republican attorneys general in at least 26 states sued in five federal appellate courts to overturn Biden policy.

The Republican National Committee has also filed suit in the DC Court of Appeals to overturn the mandate. That matter has been consolidated with the AFL-CIO and the UFCW’s petition for review.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is considered the most conservative in the country, blocked the requirements on November 6, writing that the lawsuits “give reason to believe that there are serious statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate. “

The court confirmed its decision on Friday evening to delay the requirements, calling them “fatally flawed” and “shockingly overbroad”. The court said that the suits seeking reversal of the requirements are likely to succeed.

The court-ordered halt came in response to lawsuits filed by Republican attorneys general of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah, as well as several private companies.

The cases will be consolidated into a single court through random selection among the courts in which the petitions have been filed. The Justice Department said last week that the random selection would take place on Tuesday at the earliest.

The selection process could prove critical to the future of vaccines and testing requirements. While Republican attorney generals have filed in federal appellate courts with more GOP-appointed judges, unions have filed in courts with more Democratic-appointed judges.

David Vladeck, a law professor at Georgetown University, told CNBC last week that there is a “high probability” that the case could end up in the Supreme Court, where there is a conservative majority.

The White House has told businesses to continue to enforce the requirements as legal drama continues in the courts. Companies with 100 or more employees have until January 4 to make sure their employees get the shots they need for a full vaccination. After that date, non-vaccinated employees must submit a negative COVID test weekly to enter the workplace. Unvaccinated employees should start wearing masks indoors at the workplace from 5 December.

“People shouldn’t wait,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last Monday. “They should continue to go ahead and make sure they are getting their workplace vaccinated.”

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