The headline question comes to us today from Jim Geraghty at the Morning Jolt. Not all that long ago, President Joe Biden was all gung-ho and full speed ahead on his various vaccination mandates, talking tough and telling people to comply or prepare to lose their jobs. But as Jim notes, we’re seeing signs that the “tough guy” image is starting to fade a bit. Things haven’t been going well for some of these mandates in the courts and the prospect of having to fire nearly ten percent of the federal workforce may be a bit too much for the President to swallow. There have already been delays in enforcement of the mandates put in place and others are under discussion. So is that where this entire spectacle is heading now? Was it all just sound and fury, signifying nothing? Is Biden actually getting cold feet?
It turns out that the Biden administration doesn’t really have the will to enforce its own COVID-vaccination mandate.
It is highly debatable as to whether OSHA can make your employer pressure you to either get vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing. The administration is losing court case after court case on this. But the president’s authority over the federal government’s workforce is much stronger, and his message was clear: Get vaccinated or be prepared to lose your job.
As of a week ago — one day after the deadline for compliance — 92 percent of the 3.5 million federal workers covered by Biden’s mandate reported to the government that they are at least partially vaccinated. That sounds good, but that also means that roughly 280,000 federal workers aren’t vaccinated at all.
That adds up to more than a quarter of a million federal workers who would be put out of work for no reason other than their failure to comply with an executive mandate. The largest number would come from the Department of Agriculture. They are set to lose nearly 14 percent of their workforce if the enforcement proceedings move forward.
But the “move forward” part is now in question. As of this week, one of the larger federal employee unions announced that a deal of sorts had been reached with the White House and their unvaccinated workers would not be heading out the door, at least not yet. They are going to be offered “counseling and education” on the vaccination process instead. As Jim put it, “that will show them!”
The aforementioned federal workers union (the AFGE) may be playing a bigger role in the background than we’re being told about. Nearly every union representing federal workers across the board has filed objections to the mandate, demanding negotiations before any changes are made to their terms of employment and calling for alternate options such as weekly testing. It was the stalwart resistance of the Postal Workers’ union that originally resulted in those employees being granted an exemption, though that was later questioned.
What’s being left unsaid in this debate is the fact that there are a lot of unions representing all of these federal workers. And they all donate generously to the campaigns of Democrats massively disproportionately as compared to Republicans. Some of those donations went to Joe Biden in 2020. He can only afford to tick them off just so much.
On top of that, there are still a lot of people out of work, either because their employers were damaged by the shutdowns or because they’ve chosen to seek new career paths. Does the President want to start off a midterm election year by putting hundreds of thousands of additional people out of work based on nothing more than his own demands? It’s not a very good look and it could leave a large number of potential voters with a rather unfavorable perception of the President and his party.
Nothing is assured yet, but stay tuned. If Jim and many others are reading the tea leaves correctly here, we could be in store for one of the biggest examples of “wimping out” (as Jim put it) seen in modern political history.
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