When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s mandate for large private businesses to require workers to get vaccinated, the decision didn’t let federal workers off the hook.
Now, members of the largest union representing federal workers are challenging the mandate in court, and the decision has the potential to put limits on when presidents can issue executive orders in the future.
Under the umbrella of the 700,000-member American Federation of Government Employees, the following unions have filed suit in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania: the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2018, representing all union, federal contractors who train U.S. Marines outside of boot camp; and the American Federation of Government Employees Council Of Prison Local 33, representing union employees in all federal prisons and detention centers.
The lawsuit covers tens of thousands of unvaccinated employees, Attorney Bruce Castor, Jr. of the law firm Van Der Veen, Hartshorn & Levin, told The Epoch Times.
Castor, who is representing the unions, says his clients told him that if all the people who won't take the vaccine are fired, there will not be sufficient staff to guard prisoners nor to train Marines, and it will affect the welfare of the country.
“We're not trying necessarily to get money, we're trying to get the court to say, ‘You can't do this.’ The main thrust of the argument is that the president doesn't have the authority to issue an order like this, pursuant to the powers granted him in Article Two of the United States Constitution, and that's the same argument that won the day in the Supreme Court regarding the 100 or more employees; the president doesn't have that authority,” Castor said. “Instead of going through the checks and balances of congressional approval which includes feedback from the public, the executive order cuts all that out. It just says, ‘My way or the highway.’ Certainly, the Constitution grants powers like that to the president in foreign affairs and protecting the nation from aggression from foreign powers. But he doesn't have the authority, with a sweep of the pen, to affect the lives of millions of people, bypassing Congress.”
The complaint makes other arguments. For example, as union members, employees were not given the opportunity to negotiate a contract with the mandate, which punishes unvaccinated employees with termination; being forced to disclose vaccination status draws employees into unwanted political speech because vaccination status has become a politically charged issue; and employees are deprived of their religious freedoms when religious exemption applications are denied.
“When the president issues an executive order that the following things will happen—absent a court stepping in, and the president agreeing to the authority of the court—the reason he can do that is he controls the army, he controls the enforcement mechanisms. If you don't do this you get sanctioned, you get arrested, you get fined, you lose your job. He controls the enforcement mechanism.”
The filing requests an injunction to stop Biden and the federal Office of Personnel Management from enforcing the vaccination mandate. The injunction will be heard April 5.
“Where do we draw the line between the chief executive officer executing the laws that Congress passes, and the chief executive officer deciding what's best for America without consulting Congress?” Castor said. “Nowhere in the Constitution is he granted these powers, and nowhere has Congress created some agency under the executive branch controlled by the president that delegates these powers.”