Several of the country’s largest unions have sued over President Joe Biden’s demands for vaccines and testing, not to abolish them, but to expand them to cover more businesses.
Last week, the United Food and Trade Workers International and the AFL-CIO asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reconsider the claims. AFL-CIO is the largest federation of trade unions in the United States, and the UFCW is the largest union of meat and food producers.
Although unions did not present arguments in their petition, a spokesman for the food workers union told CNBC that the group wants the mandates to be expanded to cover as many businesses as possible. The union also wants a new Department of Labor rule to ensure that employees do not have to cover the costs of Covid testing and face masks. Biden’s mandates do not force companies to cover these costs.
The food workers union said in a statement to CNBC that it wants to “strengthen worker protection to ensure that as many workers as possible are reached, so that grassroots workers have a say in how vaccine requirements are met and that employees do not take responsibility for their application “. the cost of masks, testing, or other important security measures needed to keep employees and customers safe. “
Last week, the International Service Workers Union also challenged Biden’s vaccine and testing claims in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. SEIU local 32BJ represents 175,000 workers – mostly security guards and building cleaners – in New York, New England, New Jersey, parts of Pennsylvania, the DC metro area and Florida.
Service employees said in their petition that Biden’s policy “does not provide adequate protection for all workers at serious risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.” SEIU 32BJ President Kyle Bragg told CNBC on Friday in a statement to CNBC that his local wants powers to be expanded to include all businesses.
“We believe that we all need to do our part to help our communities get back to normal, and that the COVID vaccine or testing mandate should be broader in scope to also apply to employers with fewer than 100 employees.” said Bragg. “Excluding these employers undermines efforts to protect public health.”
The Labor Department declined to comment on the union’s claims. Biden, in a speech shortly after Labor Day, said he intends to be “the most pro-union president and lead the most pro-union administration in American history.”
AFL-CIO, food and service workers unions lobbied White House representatives in conference calls with the Office of Management and Budget last month to include broader protections in workers’ mandates, such as ventilation standards and business requirements for physical distancing. where appropriate. The administration did not include these measures in its vaccination and testing policies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which will ensure the fulfillment of the Labor Department’s mandates, said it was setting a threshold for businesses with 100 or more employees because it believed these companies had the tools to meet the requirements.
OSHA said it has decided not to introduce broader measures to mitigate the impact of Covid in various industries, as it is “extremely complex and complex undertaking.” The agency said it must “act as quickly as possible” to protect workers from the serious danger posed by Covid, and vaccination is “the most potent and effective means” to do so.
However, OSHA has indicated it may expand its powers to small businesses and is considering adding additional requirements to protect employees. As part of the public comment period, the agency solicits information from companies that have broader protections in place, as well as companies with fewer than 100 employees that have vaccination and testing requirements.
The Biden administration is now facing a legal war over vaccine and testing requirements. As unions push for more court power, Republican attorneys general in at least 26 states have filed lawsuits in five federal appeals courts demanding that Biden’s policies be overturned.
The Republican National Committee has also filed a lawsuit with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to revoke the mandates. This case was merged with the AFL-CIO and UFCW’s petition for review.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, considered one of the most conservative in the country, canceled the claims on November 6, writing that the lawsuits “suggest there are serious legislative and constitutional problems with the mandate.”
The court reaffirmed its decision to postpone the claims on Friday night, calling them “fatally flawed” and “startlingly excessive.” The court said that the lawsuits to cancel the requirements are likely to be successful.
The court order 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 in one court by random selection among the jurisdictions in which the motions were made. The Justice Department said last week that the random selection would take place no earlier than Tuesday.
The selection process may be critical to future vaccine and testing requirements. While Republican attorneys general have filed more GOP-appointed judges with federal appeals courts, unions have sued more Democratic-appointed judges.
David Vladek, a law professor at Georgetown University, told CNBC last week that there is a “high likelihood” that the case could end up in the Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority.
The White House has called on businesses to continue to comply with demands as the legal drama plays out in the courts. Companies with 100 or more employees must ensure by January 4th that their employees have received the vaccinations necessary for a full vaccination. After this date, unvaccinated employees must take a negative Covid test weekly in order to start working. Unvaccinated employees are required to start wearing masks indoors in the workplace from 5 December.
“People shouldn’t wait,” White House deputy press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters last Monday. “They must continue to move forward and provide vaccinations in the workplace.”