by Scott McClallen
Michigan businesses are scrambling to handle President Joe Biden’s Jan. 4 national vaccine mandate for private businesses exceeding 100 workers.
Michigan Occupational Safety Health Administration (MIOSHA) Director Bart Pickelman told The Center Square in an email that starting Nov. 5, federal OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. An ETS summary is here.
MIOSHA has 30 days from the effective date to implement a standard. Pickelman said MIOSHA must be at least as stringent as the federal OSHA standard but has no intention of going beyond that. The goal is to adopt the identical rules and requirements contained within the federal OSHA ETS.
“Michigan employers with 100 or more employees should be prepared to implement the standard’s requirements as outlined in the ETS,” Pickelman wrote.
Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley called the Biden administration rule “out-of-touch,” especially during a labor shortage, inflation, and supply chain issues pre-holidays.
“I think it’s increasingly apparent that they don’t understand the Midwest or the Great Lakes,” Studley told The Center Square in a phone interview. “They don’t understand or care about the everyday challenges facing Michigan’s businesses.”
He’s seen much frustration and disappointment from businesses statewide.
“Across our state, employers of every size and type are already struggling with a labor shortage, made worse by supply chain difficulties, made worse by increasing inflation,” Studley said.
Studley said the mandate was poorly timed before the nation’s three biggest holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. The rule activates once a business crosses the threshold of 100 workers company-wide, counting full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers, even if it later drops below 100.
If a restaurant, ski resort, or a hotel crosses that 100-person mark during the busy holiday season because of temporary employees, Studley says it will have to comply with the mandate.
“This rule can only make a bad situation worse for private businesses in Michigan and across the country,” Studley said.
A one-time violation can bring fines up to $13,654 but a “willful” violation fine can balloon to $136,532 per violation.
“It will make all of those existing problems worse, whether we’re talking about inflation, the labor shortage or supply chain shortages because first it will make employers thinking about adding employees during the holiday season reluctant, especially if they take the employees over the 100-person threshold,” Studley said.
Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, opposed the rule.
“The president’s senseless plan forces workers into an ultimatum where they must choose between their personal beliefs or putting food on the table for their families,” Meerman said in a statement. “It is despicable and does nothing but increase skepticism about the vaccine and further stress the already-strained labor market – jeopardizing the jobs of all workers, regardless of vaccination status.”
Over the weekend, the Fifth Circuit of Appeals temporarily halted the mandate, citing “grave” constitutional issues.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Vaccine” by U.S. Secretary of Defense. CC BY 2.0.