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The Biden administration is now suggesting federal employers and government contractors offer “flexibility” when enforcing COVID vaccine mandates against unvaccinated employees. This announcement is an about-face from the far-reaching rules President Biden laid out in a September speech where he lashed out at those who are hesitant to get the vaccine.
“Deadlines are not cliffs,” Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday. “The federal worker deadline is the 22nd of November, and the federal contractor deadline is not until December 8th,” he said.
“But even once we hit those deadlines, we expect federal agencies and contractors will follow their standard HR processes and that, for any of the probably relatively small percent of employees that are not in compliance, they’ll go through education, counseling, accommodations and then enforcement.”
This announcement followed a meeting earlier this week between business groups and the White House Office of Management and Budget during which business leaders asked the Biden administration to postpone its vaccine mandate until after the holiday season.
The National Retail Federation, American Trucking Association and Retail Industry Leaders Association asked the White House to give businesses 90 days to comply, which would pause the implementation of the mandate until no earlier than late January.
In an interview with CNBC, Retail Industry Leaders Association President Evan Armstrong warned the coming mandate could trigger resignations at places already facing severe staffing issues.
While business leaders are holding discussions with policymakers and airing their grievances regarding how mandates will affect their bottom line, thousands of workers are protesting the policy, with some walking off the job.
A recent survey by Kaiser Family Foundation, found 72% of unvaccinated workers say they will quit their job if their employer mandates the vaccine.
Earlier this week, in Elma, New York, hundreds of workers at Moog Facilities walked off the job to protest the federal vaccine mandate.
“We just want to work,” said Matt Schieber, a Moog employee. “We don’t want to be forced to take a medical procedure if we don’t want it.”
New York City is requiring all city workers to be vaccinated before the Nov. 1 deadline. According to CBS-NY, employees from all city departments are protesting the mandate, some by “not providing city services and others by organizing rallies.”
On Thursday, thousands of firefighters and fire union officials protested the vaccine mandate in front of Gracie Mansion, the main residence of New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio.
“There is going to be a catastrophic manpower shortage if 3,500 firefighters that are currently unvaccinated are told not to go to work,” Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro told ABC7.
The New York Post reported the New York City Fire Department is “preparing to shutter as many as 20% of all city fire companies and take an equal portion of its ambulances off the streets ahead of the impending deadline.”
Firefighters aren’t the only workers protesting the mandate in The Big Apple. Thirty-five percent of the workforce at the Department of Sanitation are unvaccinated and some have stopped showing up to work.
Residents of the Westerleigh neighborhood in Staten Island and the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn are beginning to see the result of a city missing large swaths of its sanitation workforce.
One Bay Ridge resident told CBS, “It’s starting to smell. They’ve got tuna fish bags down the block.”
New York healthcare workers are currently in court over the state’s vaccine mandate, which did not make exemptions for those with religious objections to the COVID jab.
Also, scores of healthcare workers took to the streets of Rochester, New York, Monday to express their opposition to Mayo Clinic’s vaccine mandate.
As of Oct. 14, about 8,000 workers — or 12% of Mayo Clinic’s entire workforce — were unvaccinated. The clinic said employees not in compliance with the mandate by Jan 3 will be terminated.
One Mayo Clinic administrative assistant who recently resigned over the coming mandates estimated at least 700 employees are “ready to quit or be fired.”
In New Jersey, one of the largest hospital systems, RWJBarnabas Health, fired more than 100 of its employees this week who refused to comply with its vaccination policy.
Another behemoth hospital chain, Ballad Health, decided to forgo its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers after computer modeling suggested 15% of their nurses would quit.
Police in several states have resisted and protested the new mandate requirements. As reported by the DailySignal, “major cities across the United States risk losing one-third or more of their police forces” due to COVID vaccine mandates.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said, “It’s safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up.”
NPR reported at least 150 Massachusetts State Police officers resigned ahead of the state vaccine mandate.
The Washington State Police force has also faced problems regarding COVID vaccine mandates, with 74 commissioned officers, 67 troopers, six sergeants and one captain resigning in protest to new vaccine policies.
The city of Seattle lost more than 300 officers over the past year. Earlier this month, Seattle’s police department had to send detectives and non-patrol officers to respond to emergency calls because of a shortage of patrol officers.
At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, 185 employees quit as a result of the lab’s COVID vaccine mandate, which they opposed in court. Their legal action failed. Newsweek reported, “more than 100 scientists, nuclear engineers, research technicians, designers, project managers, and other employees joined the attempt to block the mandate.”
City workers in Los Angeles have until Dec. 18 to get fully vaccinated. Those who refuse to get vaccinated should “prepare to lose their job,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said earlier this week.
The workers originally had until Oct. 20 to get fully vaccinated. During the extended period, unvaccinated workers will have $65 deducted from their paychecks twice a week to cover the cost of weekly testing.
In Lafayette, Indiana, workers at GE Aviation are protesting the company’s vaccine mandate for a second time. Employees have until Dec. 8 to be vaccinated or they could lose their jobs.
Protesters say many of them have already had COVID so they feel their natural immunity will protect them. They say they feel they should have the choice to get it or not.