Dear AFGE Member,
As you are likely aware, on September 9, President Biden announced a new plan to combat the increased spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19. This plan included the signing of Executive Order 14043, which requires federal employees to take one of the several safe, effective vaccines against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, with limited exceptions as required by law.
Since the president’s announcement, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has issued updated Agency Model Safety Principles to reflect the new executive order, which we have shared with AFGE’s COVID-19 Task Force already. OPM is also working on implementation guidance that we expect to review and communicate more about in the coming days.
Before President Biden’s September 9 announcement, our union released a statement reiterating our position that we expect agencies to negotiate changes with our bargaining units as appropriate and before implementation.
We likewise encouraged all AFGE members who are capable to get vaccinated. The data are clear. Getting vaccinated isn’t just the best way for us to end this pandemic, it’s the best way for us to protect each other in the workplace.
We have thoroughly evaluated the text of the executive order and any potential legal arguments for and against it. No potential arguments or avenues were ignored. However, based on the order’s express provision for exceptions required by law, along with a long line of Supreme Court and other federal cases upholding vaccinations in the interest of public health, as well as other cases foreclosing primary court jurisdiction over a federal union’s challenge to an employment-related executive order, a direct legal challenge or lawsuit over the order is unavailable.
We nonetheless continue to believe that agencies’ bargaining obligations must be met prior to implementation of this mandate and that there must be appropriate exceptions, e.g., medical and religious exemptions, as the order requires. While the scope of bargaining is likely to be limited, our union will make sure that workers have a voice in all those areas that are negotiable, including procedures and appropriate arrangements, and that our collective bargaining agreements are honored.
We are not aware of any agency that has implemented this executive order as of this date. But, this is a developing situation. As we receive additional information from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, OPM, or other entities, we will, of course, update this guidance and AFGE’s leaders and members, including with respect whatever exceptions may be available on a case-by-case basis.
AFGE National Executive Council
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