Unions push White House to add protections for workers to Biden vaccine mandate – .

Unions push White House to add protections for workers to Biden vaccine mandate – .

Some of the country’s largest unions are pushing the Biden administration to expand its vaccine mandate for private companies to include additional protections for workers, including mask requirements and other safety measures to minimize the spread of Covid-19.
The AFL-CIO and about two dozen other major unions representing teachers, service workers, meat processing plants, auto and steel workers met with the Biden administration. of his proposed security rule during an Oct. 18 teleconference with White House officials with the Office of Management and Budget.

“We have emphasized the importance of mitigation measures,” Rebecca Reindel, who represented the AFL-CIO on the call, told CNBC. “We really need to get ahead of the transmission of the virus. It takes time to get vaccinated – we need protections while we wait, ”said Reindel.

Three of the largest worker groups, in particular the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, told CNBC that they had asked the administration to extend protection to workers. employees, forcing employers to improve ventilation and enforce mask and distancing rules. Reindel said companies should also be required to conduct a risk assessment, in consultation with workers, to determine what combination of mitigation measures are needed to best protect their employees in the workplace.

President Joe Biden has ordered the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write a rule requiring private companies with 100 or more employees to ensure they are all vaccinated or tested every week for Covid-19.

OMB and Ministry of Labor officials have held dozens of calls and meetings with industry lobbyists over the past two weeks as OMB revises terms of reference, OMB files show . The vaccine and weekly testing requirements will come into effect shortly after the OMB completes its review.

The AFL-CIO has called for sweeping measures to protect workers from Covid-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020. However, OSHA, which monitors workplace safety, has yet to release rules large-scale Covid security.

Instead, OSHA issued requirements over the summer limited to healthcare workers. Most healthcare providers have had to make plans to mitigate the risk of Covid, make sure employees wear masks indoors, keep people six feet apart from each other indoor, installing barriers at workstations when employees are not six feet apart, and ensuring good ventilation – among a number of other requirements.

The AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers sued the Biden administration, arguing that the OSHA standard “does not protect employees outside the healthcare industry who face serious danger similar to occupational exposure to COVID-19 ”. Unions have specifically cited meat packaging, groceries, transportation and corrections as industries where workers need the Department of Labor to issue a binding safety standard on Covid.

Unions and the Labor Department filed a joint motion in September to suspend the case until the Biden administration’s weekly vaccination and testing mandate is released. The parties are required by the court to issue a joint progress report on Monday.

“The harsh reality is that the current COVID safety guidelines are simply not enough and have left millions of essential workers to fend for themselves,” Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, said in August after the OSHA has issued voluntary guidelines recommending masks for vaccinated employees working in areas of high transmission. “What we need now is a clear and enforceable COVID workplace safety standard that will protect essential United States workers still on the front lines of this deadly pandemic. “

Perrone said his union is now waiting to see if any mitigation measures are included in the mandate for vaccines and testing. “If we still have concerns, we will move forward,” he said, referring to the court case. The group represents 1.3 million employees in the grocery, retail, meat packaging, food processing, cannabis, chemicals and distillery sectors, including workers at Tysons Food, Kroger, Macy’s, Cargill and Pfizer. People in these industries are widely viewed as essential frontline workers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The UFCW warned in an August letter to the Ministry of Labor that vaccination – although important – does not eliminate the danger posed by Covid to workers as the highly transmissible delta variant spreads, the effectiveness of vaccines decreases over time and new mutations in the virus emerge.

The AFL-CIO, in a May report, found 1,833 Covid outbreaks, nearly 90,000 infections and 378 deaths in the meat packaging, food processing and agriculture industries since start of the pandemic in April 2020 until April. A report from the House screening subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis found infections among meat-packing workers to be nearly three times higher than previously reported.

“There are going to be some people who are not going to take [the vaccine] and get tested, then if you haven’t put in mitigation measures, like masks, you’re kind of defeating your goal, ”Perrone told CNBC.

The Service Employees International Union asked the Biden administration in September to extend the mandate of vaccines to include additional protections. The union represents 2 million workers in essential services such as janitors, health and other professions.

“Layered mitigation measures including but not limited to masking and distancing, as well as quarantine after exposure or positive tests remain necessary to protect against outbreaks,” wrote Leslie Frane, vice – union executive chairman, in a September letter to OSHA chief James Frederick. .
The SEIU and UFCW have also called for paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and recover from the vaccine, paid time off for workers to quarantine and recover from the virus, and free Covid testing for workers. with on-site testing options. The Biden administration said in September it would also require companies with more than 100 employees to grant paid time off for vaccinations and convalescence.

The United Auto Workers declined to comment specifically on whether they wanted the vaccine and testing mandate to include Covid mitigation measures. The Big Three automakers have already put in place extensive security protocols against Covid. Although it supports vaccination in general, the union opposes its being required as part of a federal or management mandate. The union will review the terms of reference for the vaccines and testing when it is released, UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg told CNBC.

“We are waiting for the standards because we have over 700 contracts and we are going to have to go through them and see how they impact our contracts,” he said.


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