Labor Unions aren’t buying what President Joe Biden is selling. The president’s call for vaccine mandates received major pushback from the usual suspects like Republicans. Not surprisingly, the mandates also met opposition from a traditional ally, labor unions.
Republicans and Labor Unions Not Supporting Biden’s Vaccine Mandates
Expectedly, the Republican National Committee called Biden’s vaccine mandates “unconstitutional”. In addition, GOP Governors also condemned the plan, going on Twitter to voice their opposition.
What Biden didn’t count on was pushback from worker groups. The 313,000-member American Federation of Government Employees issued a statement that encouraged vaccines but stopped short of supporting the mandate.
The group, which claims to represent 700,000 federal and Washington, DC government workers, decried the lack of consultation. National president Everett Kelley issued a statement about the mandate.
“Changes like this should be negotiated with our bargaining units where appropriate. We expect to bargain over this change prior to implementation,” Kelley said. Apart from the AFGE, a member of the AFL-CIO, other unions are also protesting about the arbitrary plan. This includes even unions of health care workers, who know firsthand the effects of COVID-19.
Employers Prefer Vaccine Mandates
Meanwhile, Mary Kay O’Neill, senior consultant of human resources company Mercer, said that employers prefer mandates in place. This provides legal cover for companies to issue their own employee vaccination requirements.
“My sense is that the employers have been increasingly desperate to figure out how to provide a safe workplace. It's really difficult to manage workplace safety. More and more companies were heading down the mandate path anyway,” O’Neill noted.
However, labor unions expected officials to consult with them first before issuing sweeping vaccine policies. It’s a large group that Democrats can’t afford to alienate as the midterm elections approach.
Ben Koltun, Beacon Policy Advisors director of research, said that Biden is getting desperate with the increasing COVID-19 cases. “Frustration about the uptake in vaccines is kind of forcing an exasperated Biden to take a heavier hand.
That's kind of the trade-off that Democrats are balancing… a heavy hand, but maybe it could help with the economy,” he observed.
Labor Union Numbers Going Down
While labor unions’ numbers are shrinking (it’s now down to 6.3% last year), their presence remains prominent. Especially during the pandemic, the labor unions worked in improving visibility and remaining influential.
Julia Pollak, the labor economist at ZipRecruiter, said that labor unions are doing their jobs. “They've taken a very important role during the pandemic, which is to argue for workplace health and safety protocols, which the government has not actually codified,” Pollak said.
“Unions have taken on that mantle and… done a number of things to protect the health and safety of their workers. For many members, their union is more important now than it ever has been,” she added.
During the campaign, Biden ran on a very pro-union platform. In fact, he even installed a former labor union official, Marty Walsh as his Labor Secretary.
“Biden said he’s going to be the most pro-union president ever, and he's shown a lot of interest in catering to union policy preferences,” Koltun said. However, actual events might prove different from the theory.
“I think there's sometimes a difference between being pro-union in the concept of unions, and being pro-union-worker,” he added. For example, many experts believe that Biden’s good relationship with automotive labor unions is virtually dead. Labor leaders are unhappy with the transition to more electric vehicles, which means fewer jobs for them.
Watch the CBC News video addressing the question: Do COVID-19 vaccine mandates violate civil liberties?
Do you agree with the labor unions opposing vaccine mandates for companies? More importantly, where do you stand on the vaccine debate? Let us know what you think. Share your comments below.
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