On Friday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments to decide the fate of Joe Biden’s stalled vaccine and testing mandate, which would require employees at federally funded health care facilities and businesses with more than a hundred workers to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
While the White House and many economists have argued that the vaccine mandate will “promote a faster and stronger economic recovery,” powerful business interests don’t want the public health policy — as demonstrated by a deluge of comments submitted to federal agencies by corporate lobbying groups and reviewed by the Daily Poster.
The corporate opposition campaign comes amid data showing workplaces have become pandemic hotspots. As just one example: A study last year found that meatpacking plants accounted for more than three hundred thousand COVID-19 cases.
If the industry groups are successful, many Americans could end up in workplaces with no vaccine or testing mandates, and virtually no protections at all. Across the country, twenty-seven states have no sick leave laws and have passed laws broadly shielding businesses from COVID-related health and safety lawsuits.
Biden first announced his mandate in September in response to flagging vaccine rollout. Today, just 62 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while only 34 percent have received a booster dose. Research has shown that organizations that implement vaccination requirements see their employee vaccination rates jump by more than 20 percent.
At first glance, the new mandate — an emergency temporary standard (ETS) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — would appear beneficial to businesses. The pandemic has led to global supply chain disruptions and worker shortages, meaning that companies cannot afford to lose employees to illness.
While some vaccinated Americans have experienced breakthrough infections, COVID vaccines — and particularly booster shots — help protect people from contracting the virus, and prevent more severe disease and death. According to the White House, vaccination requirements could lead to as many as five million US workers returning to jobs.
Business lobbying groups have nevertheless lined up in opposition to Biden’s mandate.
Some of the groups are fighting the mandate in court, while others have been submitting comments to OSHA throughout the public comment period for the new rule, urging modification, clarification, and even wholesale abandonment of the rule — since industry groups want to derail what they see as burdensome regulations that could stymie business activity.
Some corporate lobbying groups want to revise Biden’s vaccine and testing mandate to allow for nonsensical exemptions for people who self-attest that they have been tested or have experienced “natural infection and recovery.” Others want the rule scrapped outright, arguing the mandate will turn businesses into “the government’s instruments of coercion against their own employees.”
The public comments lay bare the shallow arguments and crass calculus to which big business is willing to resort in order to protect profits at the risk of its own workers. Below are some of the groups fighting OSHA’s mandate, and their questionable reasonings for doing so.