Opposition increases for OSHA vaccine mandate; TN business associations join fight

Published 4:41 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Several Tennessee business associations have jumped on the OSHA vaccine mandate opposition wagon, joining other state trade associations within the 6th Circuit District to challenge the recent Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).

Released on Nov. 5, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ETS would require most private employers with 100 or more workers to either establish a mandatory vaccination policy or submit to regular COVID-19 testing.

Initially filed in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the challenge was granted a stay while dozens of other lawsuits were filed in circuit courts across the country.

Email newsletter signup

The challenge was later transferred to the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

“The mandated vaccine and testing rule will cause a mass exodus of employees in our industries,” said Rob Ikard, president of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association. “With our workforce stretched thin and our supply chains already challenged the ETS, if implemented, will deal a devastating blow to Tennessee’s food industry.”

Bradley Jackson, president of the TN Chamber of Commerce & Industry spoke of the issue.

“The Tennessee Chamber and our member companies believe that increasing vaccination rates are the best way to move forward through this pandemic.  Mandating business enforcement through an OSHA ETS, however, is extremely burdensome, costly and confusing and is not the right solution,” said Jackson. “When the lawsuit challenging this burdensome rule was reassigned to the circuit court with jurisdiction over Tennessee, we felt it was imperative that our state associations add our voices to the chorus opposing its implementation.”

The challenge has been most recently joined by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association, the Tennessee Manufacturers Association and the Tennessee Trucking Association.

Other plaintiffs include national and state business associations covered by the 6th Circuit.

The initial 5th Circuit stay required OSHA to cease implementation of the rule pending further court action. The Emergency Temporary Standard included a vaccination compliance deadline of Dec. 5with a testing commencement date of Jan. 4.  Because of the stay, those deadlines are currently suspended.

Dave Huneryager, president of the Tennessee Trucking Association, said his drivers, technicians and operations personnel have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to make sure that food, medicines and fuel continued to be available to consumers everywhere.

“While our industry has supported vaccinations, we have very serious concerns about the mandate and the associated testing requirements,” said Huneryager.

Regardless of how the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules, the losing side will almost certainly compel final consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The presidents of the three associations released a joint statement.

“Our associations’ members are optimistic that the judiciary system ultimately will rule in a balanced manner that does not significantly challenge businesses across this great nation and provides businesses with the ability to make decisions that ensure the health and safety of their customers and employees,” reads the statement, in part.