Following President Biden’s address to the nation on Sept. 9 when he put in place emergency vaccine mandates requiring all private employees of 100+-person businesses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly, individual states have vowed to protest the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). On Sept. 16, 24 mainly Republican state attorneys general wrote a letter to the President in opposition to the mandates, threatening to take legal action against what they are calling an illegal usage of the OSHA ETS.
“Your plan is disastrous and counterproductive,” the letter says. “From a policy perspective, this edict is unlikely to win hearts and minds—it will simply drive further skepticism. And at least some Americans will simply leave the job markets instead of complying. This will further strain the already-too-tight labor market, burdening companies and threatening the jobs of those who have received the vaccine.”
The letter also argues that the sweeping mandate does not consider natural immunity from COVID-19 and assumes that a one-size-fits-all approach would work for all employers. But besides criticizing the policy choice of the President, the state attorneys general argue that the mandate itself is illegal and should be challenged in court as over the years the rarely utilized OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard has been often challenged in court.
The attorneys general argue that for the ETS to be put in place, employees must be exposed to “grave danger.” The grave danger of being hospitalized or dying of COVID-19, the attorneys argue, is supposedly null and void once employees are vaccinated.
They also argue that the ETS rules and procedures require protection from work-related hazards or personal injuries/illnesses “arising out of work situations,” which seems to apply more to direct work-related injuries and exposures, not COVID-19.
“Finally, broadly mandating vaccinations for 80 million Americans simply because they work at a business of a certain size hardly seems necessary to meet any such danger,” the letter reads. “[…] There are less obtrusive means to combat COVID-19 other than requiring vaccinations or COVID-19 testing.”
If President Biden does not walk back his mandate, the attorneys general say they will “Seek every legal option available to hold you accountable and uphold the rule of law.”
The states that signed the letter include the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
President Biden’s emergency rule is part of the White House’s new COVID-19 action plan which aims to crack down on the large proportion of Americans that remain unvaccinated and continue to expand economic assistance for struggling businesses.
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