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ARTICLE: Possible delay in OSHA Vaccine mandate

Lobbyists from industry associations and unions, as well as some private anti-vaccine individuals, are lining up to take meetings with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is in the process of finalizing the rule that will apply to some 80 million workers, before its expected release in coming weeks.

The unusually high number of groups requesting meetings is a sign of the intense interest in how the Biden administration crafts the policy. Many view this policy as its highest-profile — and probably its most widely contested — effort to increase vaccination rates across the country, perhaps one of the most significant undertakings in Labor Department history.

Biden has said the rule will apply to companies with more than 100 employees and will allow for coronavirus testing instead of mandatory vaccinations. Many companies have instituted their own vaccine mandates with high levels of compliance, but some others have said they have significant concerns about how a federal policy would be implemented.

Those who have had or requested meetings with Labor Department and OMB officials so far include industry groups such as the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), the Corn Refiners Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation; companies such as Walt Disney and auto conglomerate Stellantis; the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union federation; and conservative think tanks like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Representatives from multiple industry groups said in interviews that they had expressed concerns to federal officials about the potential for the coming vaccine requirements to exacerbate the economic woes caused by supply chain issues and labor shortages.

Many are searching for vaccine mandate loopholes. These are the people trying to stop them. “The overwhelming majority of respondents said to us this is going to negatively impact their businesses and their ability to retain employees,” said Kevin McKenney, director of government affairs at the NLBMDA.

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McKenney said many of the group’s member businesses were worried about the financial impact, if employers are required to pay for testing for employees who opt for it, and the strain on the labor force.

“Many of our members are concerned about the potential loss of employees,” he said. “Many have heard from their employees, who said they’d find employment elsewhere, or said we’re just going to go to another company to look for other work — that they’d rather leave than undergo the requirement.”

Other industry group leaders expressed similar sentiments, saying they told federal officials that the businesses they represented were concerned about more disruptions before the busy holiday season.

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We asked them to provide as long a possible runway regarding the implementation dates and give employers the greatest amount of flexibility as possible,” said Mark Wilson, a vice president at the HR Policy Association, which expressed these concerns in a meeting with officials on Thursday. “There’s a lot of stuff going on right now, and this is going to be a major implementation lift for large companies.”

Eric Conn, a workplace safety lawyer who met with OMB officials on behalf of a coalition of businesses with thousands of workplaces nationwide that generally support vaccine requirements, said he also raised questions about who would pay for coronavirus testing for employees.

“If you’re trying to get vaccine-resistant employees to get vaccinated, it would be crazy to require employers to pay for that testing option,” he said.

Conn was one of a handful of representatives who told The Washington Post that they had asked OSHA to delay implementing the requirement until after the holiday season.

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