ST. LOUIS– President Biden’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate could have a much bigger impact on St. Louis area workers than first thought. Some business leaders are saying it goes too far.
Road construction contractors would certainly seem to fall under new rules being drawn up by the U.S. Department of Labor’s ‘Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Those rules would require vaccinations for all federal workers plus contractors who work on federally funded projects, like interstate construction; plus workers at health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements; plus all companies with 100 or more workers. They would face fines of $14,000 per violation.
“It’s heavy-handed,” said Dan Mehan, President of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Just over 3700 Missouri employers. Think about that for a second, what happens if I employ 150 people and 25 just flat out won’t get it? That’s $14,000 times 25, potentially, depending on how they write this thing up.”
The Missouri Chamber’s “Covid Stops Here” campaign is promoting Covid-19 vaccination. It awards gold, silver, and bronze certifications for companies with vaccination rates reaching more than 70%, 80%, and 90%. So, the Missouri Chamber supports vaccination but is vehemently against mandating them.
The St. Louis symphony orchestra’s new vaccine mandate for spectators took effect Monday with all of its more than 200 full and part-time staff vaccinated under the symphony’s mandate before President Biden announced the new federal mandate.
“I think we have had a few people ask for refunds. We’ve also had people say, ‘I feel safer than ever coming to the SLSO (St. Louis Symphony Orchestra). So, let me buy tickets to your next concert,’” said the SLSO Vice-President of Communications, Vicki Boutwell. “We appreciate the community support we’ve gotten.”
It illustrates the Missouri Chamber’s point.
”Let the employer community decide how to run their business. That’s the bottom line,” Mehand said. “Which works better: the carrot or the stick? We think the carrot does.”
OSHA will likely issue the new rules by the end of the month. Republicans in the Missouri legislature plan to fight the federal mandate. The House Judiciary Committee has called a hearing on the matter during the veto session, Wednesday.