Last week, the Biden administration announced sweeping vaccine requirements for federal workers (except, oddly, postal workers). The day before, the nation's biggest union boss, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, parroted Biden's push to vaccinate, and said that the union organization supports vaccine mandates.
As it turns out, much like in California - not all unions are on board.
While labor groups representing federal workers have urged their members to get the jab, most of the leading public sector unions either oppose vaccine mandates or say that it must be negotiated first, according to The Hill.
Groups representing educators, postal workers, law enforcement officers, Treasury Department personnel and other government employees expressed unease about the vaccine requirement this week. Only a few public sector unions outright endorsed the measure.
"We expect that the particulars of any changes to working conditions, including those related to COVID-19 vaccines and associated protocols, be properly negotiated with our bargaining units prior to implementation," said Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents nearly 700,000 workers.
Meanwhile, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon says that his group has "a lot of questions about how this policy will be implemented and how employee rights and privacy will be protected."
And in yet another example, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association President Larry Cosme said in a statement that mandating vaccinations "is not the American way and is a clear civil rights violation no matter how proponents may seek to justify it."
According to the report, most public sector unions sounding the alarm over Biden's vaccine mandates previously supported most aspects of his policy.
"In order for everyone to feel safe and welcome in their workplaces, vaccinations must be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced," said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten earlier this week.
And the American Postal Workers Union said "it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent," adding that any new rules for its workers would need to be run past union leaders.
"As a matter of principle, union leaders just don’t like anything called a ‘mandate’ that comes from management where they’re cut out of the bargain," said Daniel DiSalvo, professor and chair of political science at the Colin Powell School at the City College of New York–CUNY.
The White House anticipated that unions would want a seat at the table on the new requirement. The administration’s own task force on workplace safety wrote in a memo Thursday that “agencies are reminded to satisfy applicable collective bargaining obligations” when implementing new vaccine rules.
Still, public sector unions’ demands could slow Biden’s federal vaccination campaign, and their resistance indicates that similar efforts by states and municipalities could face roadblocks as well.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced earlier this week that municipal workers must get vaccinated or be tested weekly. He quickly encountered pushback from unions representing first responders, which said that about half of their members were vaccinated, lower than the city average. -The Hill
Earlier this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that its 115,000 workers with the most "patient-facing" jobs would require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, the first federal agency to do so.
And as The Hill also notes, "Several companies have announced vaccine mandates in recent weeks, including Google, Shake Shack, Netflix, Morgan Stanley and Delta Air Lines."