Sullivan’s comments were among the strongest warnings to the business community about the residual effects of the vaccine’s mandate. In September, Biden signed an executive order requiring all federal employees and federal contractors to receive Covid-19 without being able to unsubscribe from weekly Covid tests. In addition, Biden called for vaccine requirements for every private company that employs more than 100 workers. Private individuals, however, can unsubscribe by submitting for testing.
The demands have led to a marked increase in vaccination rates in various industries. Public health officials have credited them with helping the state curb the spread of the Delta version. The White House, however, points to large companies such as United Airlines and Tyson, which have noticed remarkable consistency during their workforce. United Airlines published in September that 97 per cent of its employees were vaccinated, proving that only a small proportion of those opposed to the mandate and in the end the mandate worked.
But interviews with more than a dozen industry advocates in the aviation, distribution, defense and freight sectors – some of whom have also been interviewed by administrative officials – reveal that they either lack the confidence to meet the December 8 deadline for their workers to receive their first vaccine or expressed concern about the problems that the mandate would pose to their workforce.
The White House has repeatedly insisted – both in private and in public – that federal contractors can avoid possible disruptions to services during the holiday season. Biden’s management says companies don’t have to lay off employees on Dec. 8, but need to start advising them on the benefits of the vaccine and the consequences of non-compliance.
Some industry advocates say they were prompted by public comments from Covid working group leader Jeff Zients, who provided assurance that the mandate should not disrupt the holiday service. One official said in private meetings that Zients expressed sympathy and understanding for the challenges facing the industry.
“So these processes take place over weeks, not days,” Zients told the news last week. “So, if it’s clear, we’re creating flexibility within the system. We offer people more options for vaccination. There is no cliff here. “
But that wasn’t enough to allay any concerns among federal contractors. Both the transport industry and the air freight industry have directly asked the Biden administration to postpone the deadline or make an exception for its employees. Additional demands for the dismissal of the mandate emerged at a meeting last week between federal contractors and the Department of Defense, a person familiar with the meeting said.
Among the requirements of federal contractors: extension of the deadline until 2022, taking into account the possibility of a test for employees of federal contractors and the complete elimination of requirements.
“If they don’t bend, it will become extremely challenging,” an official of a large distribution company said of the White House.
Last week, the Cargo Airline Association, a trading group whose members are UPS, FedEx and Amazon, the management asked extend the deadline to the first half of 2022, citing likely disruptions to services that would only exacerbate delays in the supply chain if companies were forced to introduce a mandate to vaccinate employees.
“As everyone enters their high season, the administrative mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine for government contractors threatens to be a major stumbling block in servicing our customers during the holidays,” wrote Stephen Alterman, president of Cargo Airlines. email obtained by POLITICO. “This term on December 8 comes at a time when the industry is already facing a growing shortage of workers – a shortage that is likely to increase if employees choose to leave or retire instead of getting vaccinated.”
But when asked at a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday about a request from the trucking industry to postpone OSHA’s deadline for the first vaccination, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said they were not planning a timetable.
In freight transport, where the average vaccination rate among surveyed carriers was 50% in September, according to ATA data, concerns about the impact of mandates on the supply chain are acute. In a letter from Acting White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Sharon Block to POLITICO, the ATA estimated that companies affected by mandates could lose up to 37 percent of their drivers based on research.
One White House official argued in an interview that the proliferation of Covid-19 among unvaccinated employees – does not require vaccination – is one of the biggest possible disruptions to the services these companies face.
“When you look at the challenges that are posed, it’s big in terms of the illness of individuals, other close contacts that need to be quarantined, the big impact on business, also the impact it has on their clients and the engagement of those clients,” the official said. The White House, which is part of the Covid Task Force. “It is important to note that the basis for the federal contractor’s EO was to ensure economy and efficiency.”
But industrial groups are immobile. In addition to terminating their government contracts, at least one organization weighs a lawsuit. Given the proposed vaccination mandate for employers with more than 100 employees,, Chris Spear, executive director of American Trucking Associations, said the group was “exploring all options.” Sullivan said the lawsuit is over mandates he was still on the table.
Republicans, who have put resistance to vaccine mandates at the center of the conversation, are already suing. On Friday, a coalition of ten states led by the GOP filed a lawsuit over the federal contractor’s mandate. A similar lawsuit was filed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“This acquisition of power is in its scope,” the 10-state complaint reads. “Employees at federal contractors make up one-fifth of the entire U.S. workforce. And the mandate goes so far as to require vaccination even from employees who work entirely in their home. This is unconstitutional, illegal and unwise. “
The Biden administration says it has given companies a lot of freedom in enforcing new rules on vaccine mandates to ensure there are no disruptions during the lively holiday season. This is because management allows companies to impose their own enforcement measures with employees who refuse vaccination. The White House said it does not recommend contractors to immediately fire these employees, but instead show that they are working in good faith to reach that person.