Labor unions from all across the United States are suing to expand the vaccine and testing requirements set forth by President Joe Biden.
The lawsuits are not to overturn the requirements, but to make them available to more businesses.
In petitions filed last week, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the AFL-CIO demanded that the court review the requirements.
UFCW is the largest union in the meatpacking and food processing industries while AFL-CIO is the largest federation of U.S. trade unions.
Despite not providing any arguments in their petition, a spokesman for the union representing food workers told CNBC that they want businesses covered by the mandate to the fullest extent possible.
According to labor union officials, the new Labor Department rule should ensure that employees do not have to pay for Covid testing and face masks.
On the other hand, the Biden mandate does not mandate companies to cover these costs either.
In a statement to CNBC, the food workers union said its goal is to “strengthen the worker protections to ensure that as many workers are covered as possible, that frontline employees have a voice in how vaccine requirements are implemented and that employees do not shoulder the cost of masks, testing, or other critical safeguards needed to keep workers and customers safe.”
A separate petition has also been submitted by the Service Employees International Union challenging Biden’s vaccine requirements and testing requirements to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Approximately 175,000 workers are represented by SEIU Local 32BJ throughout New York, New England, New Jersey, parts of Pennsylvania, the D.C. metropolitan area, and Florida.
In their petition, the service employees said, “the Biden policy fails to adequately protect all workers who face a grave danger from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.” SEIU 32BJ President Kyle Bragg told CNBC in a statement Friday that his local wants the mandates expanded to include all businesses.
“We believe that we all have to do our part to help our communities return to normal and that the COVID vaccine or test mandate should be broader in scope to also apply to employers with less than 100 employees,” Bragg said.
“An exemption for these employers undermines the effort to protect public health.”
Union lawsuits were not commented on by the Labor Department.
Nonetheless, Biden said he is committed to being “the most pro-union President leading the most pro-union administration in American history.”
In a conference call with the Office of Management and Budget last month, the AFL-CIO, food workers, and service workers unions called for more protections for workers, such as ventilation requirements and requirements that businesses provide physical separation between workers.
Those measures were not incorporated into the administration’s policy regarding vaccinations and testing.
As an enforcement body for the Labor Department, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has said 100 employees or more were the thresholds because they believed such companies would meet the standards.
According to the agency, requiring more comprehensive Covid mitigation measures across industries “is an extraordinarily challenging and complicated undertaking.”
With time running out, it is urgent that the agency “act as quickly as possible” to prevent Covid from overtaking the workforce, and vaccination is “the single most efficient and effective means” to do so.
OSHA has indicated, however, that smaller businesses might be included in the mandate, and it is looking into whether more requirements should be added to protect workers.
The agency wants to hear, by means of a public comment period, from firms that have more comprehensive protections, including firms with less than 100 employees.
Vaccination and testing requirements have landed the Biden administration in a legal impasse.
Currently, the labor movement is pushing for the courts to broaden the mandates, and there is at least 26 Republican attorneys general who has sued five federal appellate courts to overturn the Biden policy.
As part of its lawsuit, the Republican National Committee applied to the D.C. Appeals Court to have the mandates overturned.
UFCW and AFL-CIO petitions for review have been consolidated with that case.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, among the most conservative appeals courts in the country, stopped the mandate on Nov. 6 because the lawsuits “give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.”
According to the court, the restrictions are “fatally flawed” and “staggeringly overbroad.” According to the court, lawsuits are likely to succeed in overturning the restrictions.
A court halted the project following lawsuits filed by the Republican states’ attorneys general of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah, as well as several private companies.
A random selection will be conducted to consolidate cases from jurisdictions where petitions have been filed.
As of last week, the Justice Department expected that selections would take place no later than Tuesday.
The future of vaccines and testing requirements could depend on the selection process.
Republicans have filed more appeals in federal appeals courts whose judges are more Republican, while unions file appeals in courts whose judges are more Democratic.
CNBC reported last week that Dr. David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor, believes there’s a “high probability” the case will be heard by the Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority.
As the legal drama plays out in the courts, the White House has urged companies to continue implementing the requirements.
The deadline for companies with over 100 employees to complete full vaccination is Jan. 4.
Unvaccinated workers will have to submit negative Covid tests every week after that date to enter the workplace.
From Dec. 5, all unvaccinated employees will be required to wear masks at work indoors.
“People should not wait,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last Monday. “They should continue to move forward and make sure they’re getting their workplace vaccinated.”