On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden unveiled plans to order a vaccine mandate that would affect as many as 100 million Americans. This mandate would extend into the private sector, as Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require vaccines or weekly testing. Now, Democrats in Congress have put a section into the Build Back Better Act that would increase fines for violating OSHA standards tenfold.
The new addition to the Build Back Better Act, the culmination of Biden’s presidential agenda, comes amid a ramped-up push by the administration to increase vaccinations across the United States.
Biden Takes Expansive View of OSHA Jurisdiction
To enforce these incursions into the private sector, Biden is stretching the limits of a clause in the OSHA Act of 1970 that allows the organization to impose an “emergency temporary standard” (ETS) to deal with short-term crises. In the text of the original legislation, OSHA can only declare an ETS after determining “that employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards, and that such emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger.”
Historically, such standards have been issued over toxic chemicals or similar hazards. For example, in 1975 the organization issued an ETS on a dangerous pesticide (pdf).
To respond to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party virus, OSHA issued a far more narrow emergency standard in June. This was a standard only applying to healthcare organizations, which were ordered to “develop and implement a COVID-19 plan to identify and control COVID-19 hazards in the workplace” and to “implement other requirements to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in their workplaces.”
While workplaces with fully vaccinated staff were exempt from the standard, it did not go so far as to mandate vaccination. Under Biden’s request, every single private-sector employer with more than 100 employees would be forced to mandate either vaccination or weekly testing for their employees.
OSHA confirmed in a statement to The Epoch Times that they are in the process of crafting this rule. The ETS would require these employers to “ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.”
Democrats Move to Increase Fines Tenfold
Under current law, employers are required to “furnish to each of his employees … a place of employment which [is] free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees” or face fines. The Build Back Better Act would significantly strengthen the original OSHA Act of 1970 by increasing most fines in the legislation tenfold.
Under the OSHA Act, violations of this requirement carry a minimum fine of $5,000 and a maximum fine of $70,000. Additional violations currently carry a $7,000 fine for each offense. Employers who fail to correct violations can face up to a $7,000 fine per day that violations are unaddressed.
Because the CCP virus will be recognized as a hazard under the rule, employers could face fines for failing to comply.
The budget bill would increase the fines for violations: the minimum fine would be increased from $5,000 to $50,000, while the max fine would be raised from $70,000 to $700,000. Additional violations would carry a $70,000 fine, and employers would face $70,000 fines for each day that such violations remain unaddressed, a $63,000 increase over the original bill.
These increased fines, if the law passes and if these provisions are not challenged in court, would take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
This move indicates solidarity between the Democratic Congress and the president on vaccine mandates. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has claimed in the past that every Democrat in Congress has been vaccinated. In the Senate, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed support for the mandate, accusing Republican critics of “exalting liberty over life.”
While many Republicans have been vaccinated and support vaccines, they have been critical of Biden’s mandate, and have indicated that they will be challenging the mandates in court.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said that the mandate “is hammering down on private businesses and individual freedoms in an unprecedented and dangerous way.” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster promised, “we will fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also expressed doubt that the mandates were legal. He said: “I do not believe that people should lose their jobs over this issue, and we will fight that. If they try to do that through a rule like the Department of Labor, I don’t think they have the legal authority to do that, but we obviously would want to support protections for people who are just trying to earn a living.”
Still, if the Build Back Better Act is passed, these increased fines will provide an even stronger threat to non-compliant businesses, a move that would advance Biden’s mandates in the future.