Biden Advances Sweeping Vaccine Mandates for Private Employers

Although President Joe Biden was initially reluctant to enact vaccination mandates, he and his administration are now moving aggressively to require vaccinations.

He recently used the full force of his presidency to push vaccine mandates in companies with more than 100 workers. Workers will be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing.

This mandate would apply to two-thirds of American workers. Millions of workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or test weekly.

Soon after, a U.S. appeals court ordered the government agency in charge of the mandate, OSHA, to “take no steps to implement or enforce the Mandate until further court order.”

Biden previously had mandated vaccines for federal contractors, health care workers, and most federal workers, who could face possible disciplinary measures if they refused the vaccine.

With his recent statements, the president expressed his frustration with around 80 million Americans eligible for shots but have still not received them. 

In a sharply worded statement, the president stated, “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.” In his remarks, he promised to “protect vaccinated workers from the unvaccinated. We can, and we will turn the tide on Covid-19.”

In response, the largest union representing federal workers has raised questions about the president’s federal rules and executive orders.

The president has been acting on a combination of new federal regulations and executive orders. Under Biden’s plan, private-sector businesses that employ 100 or more employees must require mandatory weekly testing or vaccination after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration drafts a rule. 

The president also ordered mandatory vaccination for 300,000 educators working in the Head Start Program and more than 200 federally run schools. He also said that the Transportation Security Administration would now double fines on passengers who refuse to wear masks.

“If you break the rules, be prepared — and by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their jobs is wrong. It’s ugly,” said Biden.

According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, if workers decline to receive shots within 75 days, they will “go through the standard H.R. process,” which she explains would include progressive disciplinary action.

Workers, unions challenge mandates

According to Cathie McQuiston, a deputy general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, which is a union that represents 700,000 federal workers, said in a recent interview that her organization will be working with different agencies to ensure that they “not skip over procedures and make sure employees have due process” if they are disciplined.

According to White House officials, the federal employee mandate will apply to all federal agencies, executive branch employees, including the White House, and members of the armed services. It does not apply to individuals who work for the federal court systems or Congress.

Mandates for health care workers will apply to most institutions that accept Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, including nursing homes, dialysis centers, and hospitals.

The mandate will be enforced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the health care industry regulation. According to Psaki, “We would like to be a model for what we think other business and organizations should do around the country.”

President Biden has made it clear that his administration would do whatever he could to “require more Americans to be vaccinated to combat those blocking public health,” he said, referring to governors who have blocked mask and vaccine mandates in their states.

“If they will not help, if those governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”