Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) not to adopt a COVID-19 mandate that will cause “economic damage” to her state.
In a letter sent to OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor Douglas Parker on Dec. 3, Ivey urged the agency not to adopt its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), saying the policy is “misguided” and that “any final standard based on it would be a mistake.”
OSHA issued the ETS on Nov. 5, following Biden’s Nov. 4 announcement that employers must “ensure as many of their workers are vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
The ETS requires private employers with more than 100 employees to impose a vaccine mandate or test policy. Under the rule, unvaccinated workers must wear masks inside the workplace. Employers who refuse to impose the mandate on their workers will face potential penalties of tens of thousands of dollars per incident.
A torrent of lawsuits from Republican-led states, individuals, and businesses against the OSHA rule has since been triggered.
One example is a motion before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to stay the ETS, which on Nov. 12 (pdf) was granted, on grounds that certain private employers have the right to challenge the mandate as it “threatens to decimate their workforce (and business prospects) by forcing unwilling employees to take their shots, take their tests, or hit the road.”
The ruling by the 5th Circuit prompted OSHA to suspend implementing the ETS, pending litigation.
In October, Ivey signed an executive order (EO) to prevent any agency, board, commission or other entity under the Alabama government from imposing penalties on businesses or individuals who do not comply with the federal vaccine mandate.
“The federal government’s overreach has given us no other option, but to begin taking action, which is why I am issuing this EO to fight these covid-19 vaccine mandates,” she said on Twitter on Oct. 25. “As long as I’m governor, AL will not force anyone to take the vaccine.”
The EO stated that the best way to encourage people to get vaccinated is through education, transparency, communication, and persuasion—not government mandates.
In her letter, Ivey said that even though much efforts have been made to educate and persuade Alabamians on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, “significant percentages of Alabama’s workforce have not received at least one dose” of the vaccine.
“I can only conclude that many Alabamians have profound—and sincere—medical, religious, or other reasons not to take it,” she wrote.
Ivey also argued that COVID-19 mandates will only “increase vaccine skepticism” in her state and “severely disrupt” its economy.
“I believe that enforcement of the ETS may lead many Alabamians to quit their jobs and leave the workforce—in the middle of a substantial labor shortage, no less—or to seek work at businesses not covered by the mandate,” she said.
“Such disruption would interrupt people’s careers and threaten their livelihoods and the well-being of their families” and could “damage the productivity and bottom lines of businesses statewide.”
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report