Unions that represent federal workers pushed back Thursday against President Biden‘s plan to require all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which is part of the AFL-CIO and represents over 670,000 federal workers, said they encourage members to get vaccinated.
However, they said COVID-19 vaccine requirements should be negotiated with the unions during collective bargaining, not mandated through an executive order.
“Workers deserve a voice in their working conditions,” said the union’s national president Everett Kelly. “We expect to bargain over this change prior to implementation.”
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 employees across 31 agencies, said the administration must accommodate workers who decide against the vaccine for religious or medical reasons.
“NTEU will monitor closely the implementation of this policy at the agencies where we represent employees to make sure that those with medical and religious exemptions are accommodated,” NTEU President Tony Reardon said in a statement.
The pushback is somewhat surprising given Mr. Biden‘s close ties with labor unions. On Tuesday, Mr. Biden held an event at the White House celebrating labor unions.
Union leaders attending the event said Mr. Biden has implemented the “most pro-union administration in history.”
It was the president’s second event honoring labor unions this week. He spent the Labor Day holiday in Wilmington, Delaware, where he brought sandwiches to workers at a local union hall.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has consulted with unions on the mandate, but said the executive order is necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We understand there will be objections, there will be concerns, there will be criticisms, but our role here is to save lives and we welcome feedback and engagement but we are going to stay true to our goal,” she said.