Psst: Biden Still Hasn’t Imposed A Vaccine Mandate On Private Businesses

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For more than two decades, Kerri Hayden has been the face of the nightly news in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But when she refused an edict imposed on her local television station, KGWN-TV, by its corporate owner to take the COVID-19 vaccination, she found herself canceled — literally. Gray TV, the broadcast behemoth that owns KGWN and 149 other affiliates, fired her. “I wanted the decision to be my choice, not a billion-dollar company’s,” she said. Hayden “became part of a small wave of TV journalists who have resigned or been dismissed in recent weeks over their opposition to vaccination requirements,” a wave cresting from Mississippi to Michigan, The Washington Post has reported.

The broadcast industry is far from alone: Stories of hundreds of workers leaving airlines over vaccine mandates have snared headlines nationwide. But the airlines differ from most other private-sector industries in one significant way: Companies like Southwest Airlines say they are subject to an executive order from President Joe Biden, which requires federal contractors to impose vaccine mandates on their employees.

Do you want to know a secret? Outside of federal contractors, there is no federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private businesses. Not yet, at least.

“The White House has also said it plans to require companies that employ 100 or more workers to require their employees be vaccinated or undergo regular Covid-19 testing, but that policy is awaiting a formal rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” reported the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. (Emphasis added.) For the moment, “most businesses are awaiting more details from OSHA.” But they may have to wait for some time. The federal government “hasn’t yet issued a final rule and it may not do so until next year,” according to Rick Newman of Yahoo! Finance.

Many companies refuse to implement a policy that doesn’t exist on paper because they value their employees’ decisions; others hold off because it would harm their competitiveness, or possibly their very survival. “If you require vaccination, I think we could lose 10%, 20% of the workforce,” said Scott Myers, CEO of the packaging firm Advanced Converting Works, during a panel discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference.

Seemingly, the more an industry relies on actual human beings, the less likely it is to choose to cancel its employees’ free will with unwritten Democratic policy preferences. A recent poll found that 73% of trucking firms believe that “ignoring the vaccine mandate gives them a recruitment edge.” Fewer than 8% of drivers say they believe their company plans to adopt a vaccine passport for drivers, unless forced.

“Our policy is your body your choice,” a representative of a truck line with more than 100 employees, told CDLLife.com. “We aren’t enforcing it,” said another.

But, again, these firms aren’t enforcing the COVID-19 mandate for private employers, because there’s nothing to enforce — a fact that infuriates numerous larger companies, which hope the federal government will finally issue the OSHA edict, because it will give them cover to implement the vaccine mandates that they privately favor. And, if the Biden administration imposes a top-down mandate that requires the same behavior of every company, it would keep companies with vaccine mandates from losing employees to companies that respect their workers’ personal health care choices. Newman reports:

Many CEOs favor a government mandate because it would require all businesses to abide by the same rules instead of letting some lure workers with looser workplace standards. “If there are broad national or state mandates, they give us cover that all health care providers are treated the same way,” [LifePoint Health CEO David] Dill said. “I’m 100% supportive of that.”

Congressional Democrats have tried to accommodate corporate CEOs’ requests through a concerted effort to add stiff penalties for violating the OSHA rule to their reconciliation and social welfare spending bill. The OSHA rule is anticipated to fine workplaces $14,000 per infraction — but the reconciliation package would raise the penalty to $70,000, or $700,000 for repeated violations or those which the government deems acts of willful defiance. A proposal that made it into one draft of the bill would also increase the number of OSHA enforcement agents by 15%.

But the problem for Democrats remains: The Biden administration has not written any such rule. Some believe President Biden announced the impending rule to goad employers into imposing mandatory vaccinations on their employees. Private-sector mandates face fewer constitutional hurdles and keep the president’s fingerprints off of the unpopular policy.

The president seems to view any increase in vaccination, at any cost, as a personal victory. “Let’s be clear: When you see headlines and reports of mass firings, and hundreds of people losing their jobs, look at the bigger story,” said President Biden on October 7. “More people are getting vaccinated.”

Small businesses say the full picture would include the fact that vaccine mandates threaten to put them out of business by making it impossible for them to recruit enough workers to keep their doors open. “Small businesses are already contending with a historic labor shortage and this order will add expensive new barriers to finding and keeping employees, causing significant harm at the worst possible time,” said Alfredo Ortiz, the CEO and president of the Job Creators Network, which was created by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. “President Biden’s vaccine mandate on small businesses is unconstitutional and a dramatic overreach of federal authority … The federal government doesn’t have the power to require small businesses to carry out its de facto national vaccine mandate.”

“This vaccine mandate presents a clear and present danger to our small business community. Small businesses were disproportionately hurt during the pandemic when compared to large companies” like Amazon, said Ortiz. He said his organization “intends to sue OSHA to block the implementation of this detrimental mandate should it be finalized.”

Until the Biden administration implements this OSHA regulation, businesses with vaccine mandates are acting of their own volition — a move that public relations experts say potentially threatens to erode consumer trust — and cost them money. “Companies which implement vaccine mandates are portrayed as heroes or villains in different media outlets,” Dustin Siggins, the founder of Proven Media Solutions and a media consultant for non-profits and businesses, told me. “Companies can mitigate the negative effects of” that media coverage “by being flexible with their policies and pro-active about securing positive press for their policies.”

“Otherwise, companies risk losing the narrative,” he said — i.e., unfriendly media coverage could sour consumers on their goods and services. “In a 24-hour news cycle often driven by social media, that can turn into millions of dollars in direct financial losses and the loss of brand trust.”

If consumer backlash against companies with COVID-19 vaccination mandates becomes strong enough to threaten their profit margin — or enough potential workers refuse to  — CEOs may reconsider whether they wish to continue enforcing a policy that the president doesn’t have the guts to formulate.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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