Washington, DC — The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is reportedly still weeks away from issuing an emergency vaccine mandate for mid-sized and larger businesses, but that’s not stopping President Biden from urging employers to go ahead and implement vaccination requirements on their own, nor is it keeping Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation from calling the expected mandate un-American and unnecessary.
During a visit to a construction company in Chicago Thursday, the President noted that many of the nation’s largest companies have already implemented vaccine requirements for workers, he says, because it makes sense, for businesses and their workers.
“The Business Roundtable represents 200 of the largest businesses in the world,” said Biden, “and has championed vaccination requirements to keep businesses open and workers safe.”
Biden says getting more Americans vaccinated is critical to the nation’s economic recovery and is the reason, a month ago, he instructed OSHA to begin working on an emergency rule requiring that workers in businesses with 100 or more employees be vaccinated or show a negative Covid test each week. Non-complying companies would face fines.
“Look, I know that vaccine requirements are tough medicine,” Biden acknowledged, “unpopular with some…but they’re lifesaving.”
The Oklahoma delegation firmly opposes the mandate but doesn’t contest the point that the Covid vaccines are saving lives.
“We’ve had a lot of people die unnecessarily in Oklahoma—almost a thousand people have died since July,” said Rep. Tom Cole, (R-OK4), “90 to 95 percent of those [were] totally unvaccinated. Having said that, do I think you should force people to do it? No.”
“I continue to support getting vaccinated,” said Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5), “but a mandate is not the way to do it…You’re going to penalize employers for their employees making a personal decision not to receive the vaccine?”
Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK2) is himself a business owner, with more than 100 workers.
“We won’t comply,” said Rep. Mullin in a recent interview, “I’m telling you right now, 100 percent, our company will not comply.”
Mullin says, as an employer, he encourages his workers to get vaccinated and says the business bends over backward to make it easy for those who want to get a shot.
“We told them we would pay for their time, give them time off, whatever they need to get vaccinated—we’ll offer that opportunity for everybody that wants it,” said Mullin, “but at the end of the day, those that don’t, it’s their choice.”
In addition to their shared belief that taking the vaccine should be a personal decision, the delegation is keen to point out that millions of Americans have their own anti-bodies to the disease without getting the vaccine.
“For me, my conversation is pretty simple,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), “there’s 40 million people that have already had Covid and they’ve recovered from Covid, they have natural immunity -- why are they being required to also get the vaccine? That’s nonsensical.”
Senator Lankford says he also points out to constituents that, so far, there is no actual policy mandating vaccines, just a speech from the president.
“There’s no policy that’s in place to actually require these mandates,” said Lankford in a recent interview, “so what I’ve encouraged people to do is actually wait until there’s a policy when that policy comes out, there will be court action to be able to respond to that.”
That is one of the reasons, however, that it’s taking OSHA a month or two to finalize the rule – to try and make sure it will need to stand up to potentially numerous legal challenges.