State lawmakers, others react to vaccine mandate for private businesses

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FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2021, file photo, a medical staff member prepares the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Lawmakers around the Mitten are responding to the latest vaccine and testing mandate from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or get tested for the virus weekly under government rules issued Thursday.

The new requirements, which were first previewed by President Joe Biden in September, will apply to about 84 million workers at medium and large businesses, although it is not clear how many of those employees are unvaccinated.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations will force the companies to require that unvaccinated workers test negative for COVID-19 at least once a week and wear a mask while in the workplace.

OSHA left open the possibility of expanding the requirement to smaller businesses. It asked for public comment on whether employers with fewer than 100 employees could handle vaccination or testing programs.

Tougher rules will apply to another 17 million people who work in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid. Those workers will not have an option for testing — they will need to be vaccinated.

Biden framed the issue as a simple choice between getting more people vaccinated or prolonging the pandemic.

“While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” he said Thursday in a statement.

Responses from Michigan lawmakers and labor coalitions have begun to trickle in, some of which are not happy about the new requirements.

Congressman Tim Walberg released the following statement regarding the mandate:

“The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate is a serious overreach that will inflict further harm on an already hobbled economy. In the middle of a nationwide labor shortage, this heavy-handed mandate will place more undue burdens on job creators, cause more workers to lose their livelihoods, and escalate the supply chain crisis. It couldn’t come at a worse time as we approach the holiday season.
 
“What’s more, this rule was hastily conceived and it is likely that OSHA does not possess the legal authority to impose such a sweeping mandate. I have long supported the vaccine’s development and encouraged folks to consult with their doctor about the best medical decision. The issue here is a top-down government mandate that infringes on individual freedom. These are personal choices that should be made by patients not politicians.”

In response to everything, Congressman Moolenaar has introduced the No Vaccine Mandate Act in an attempt to block OSHA’s order.

The legislation is cosponsored by 17 Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee.

Moolenaar additionally is Michigan’s senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of the Labor-H subcommittee, which oversees the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

President Biden’s arbitrary COVID vaccine mandate on businesses with 100 or more employees, burdens businesses with the responsibility to pay for expensive tests or force their employees to be vaccinated. There’s simply nothing in the Constitution that allows the federal government to impose this mandate on private businesses and my bill will cut off funding for the Department of Labor to enforce it. The American people simply disapprove of President Biden’s handling of the economy, and businesses are struggling with supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and higher costs for gas and electricity. The last thing businesses need is the federal government burdening them with more costs and making it harder for them to retain and hire workers.”

Congressman John Moolenaar

The state’s coalition of employer advocates, Listen to MI Business, announced it’s objections to the mandates today. According to the coalition, up to two million Michiganders will be impacted by the mandate.

Michigan’s business community and employers have been strong proponents of increasing COVID-19 vaccinations as well as actively taking steps to protect their employees and customers. But the Biden-Harris administration has made a serious mistake by preventing Michigan’s businesses and workers from having any input into what is one of the most intrusive federal mandates in U.S. history. Now, after a process shrouded in secrecy, job providers already in a labor shortage entering the busy holiday season are left to wade through hundreds of pages of regulations and figure out how they will comply under the threat of steep financial penalties.”

Rich Studley, President & CEO of the Michigan Chamber

The coalition goes on to cite a study done by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), in which employers were evaluated based on anxiety over the vaccine mandate.

The study found the following:

  • 90% of employers believe it will be somewhat or very challenging to implement the Biden administration’s mandate
  • 80% of organizations that meet the mandate criteria are concerned about the amount of time they will have to spend enforcing or tracking employees’ vaccination status or test status. 
  • 38% of those organizations cited retaining talent as the most challenging impact of the mandate and 89% believe some of their employees will quit their jobs due to the new requirements.  
  • 65% of respondents said their organization cannot afford to pay for regular testing for unvaccinated employees. 

Listen to MI Business plans to study the OSHA rules and consider the next steps.

In addition, coalition members will also work to help inform Michigan businesses on their compliance obligations. 

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