Yesterday, the Biden Administration announced that it would mandate that all American businesses with 100 or more employees require all of its personnel to be administered one of the several Covid-19 vaccines or be tested weekly with negative results, or face penalties through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
NUCA’s leadership is monitoring this unprecedented demand by the U.S. Government on America’s utility contractors and our employees, and upon this nation. To date, the three Covid-19 vaccines have reached 177 million Americans through voluntary demands by individuals.
- Our industry is not against the successful Covid-19 vaccine programs, but we have very serious concerns about our government mandating its adult citizens to undergo a medical procedure or face serious financial or personal consequences. NUCA trusts our members know what is best for their employees and their jobsite environments. Safety is paramount in our member’s operations, and we exercise all caution to keep them safe and have been doing so since the Covid-19 pandemic emergency was declared in early 2020.
- Applying it to large companies with 100 employees or more is questionable for our industry. Our larger companies for most projects employ subcontractors who may only employ a few people, but all work together in confined spaces. Questions will arise as to the usefulness of this mandate to keep employees free of Covid-19 risks if they, for example, cannot social distance because of the confined spaces found in excavations.
- Our member businesses also have concerns about the costs that businesses are expected to shoulder for this government mandate. Who will pay for these new requirements, and will the federal government share in these expenses? Who will pay for compliance costs and administrative requirements, especially for those undergoing weekly testing?
- Utility construction businesses also have to be concerned about this policy affecting their contracts if they are unable to have enough employees available to perform work because of government mandates. Some of our members are already facing this dilemma in performing work for federal contracts.
- Our association is concerned about the precedent being set by this policy. 100 employees today could by executive order or emergency regulation turn into 50 employees tomorrow, and continue even lower if the Administration so chooses. We have regulatory standards in place today that serve the administrating rulemaking function very well, and the use of an emergency standard for this policy is shortsighted, especially since Covid-19 has been known for over a year-and-a-half and the vaccines have been available for since the beginning of the year.
- Finally, the Administration’s action is guaranteed to face legal challenges in multiple courts, potentially leading to injunctions placed on the policy being carried out while it is addressed by the judiciary. Before this happens, our industry believes it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide answers to these questions and many others before introducing another mandate on American businesses still struggling to recover from the pandemic’s effects.
NUCA remains strongly committed to monitoring this governmental demand and will be reacting to it as this proposed policy’s effects unfold over the following weeks and months. The Biden Administration has given no formal timetable for its implementation through an OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard, only hinting at “weeks ahead.”
We will take the best course of action available through the three branches of government to protect our member’s interests. Our members rely upon us to represent their businesses in Washington, and we will do so by using all means at our command.
We remain committed to keeping our members informed about this demand by the Biden Administration and will keep you informed about this situation through our regular member communications.
Thank you for your continued support of NUCA and our essential American industry.