OSHA’s proposed Covid-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard will be the focus of upcoming meetings between the White House, pro-business groups, and worker advocacy organizations.
The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs met with the HR Policy Association Thursday and is set to hold meetings Friday and next week.
Among the groups saying they’re also meeting with the regulatory affairs office are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Hospital Association. Others groups saying they’ve made requests and are waiting appointment dates are the AFL-CIO labor federation and the National Restaurant Association.
Business groups had been concerned the White House in an effort to quickly enact the emergency rule would forgo or severely limit meetings with interested groups and not listen to their concerns.
“That they’re going to have meetings—that’s a positive sign,” said Marc Freeman, the Chamber’s vice president for employment policy.
The spate of meetings come as the number of newly reported Covid-19 cases is once again declining, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.
Its unclear to what extent the confabs will delay issuance of a final shot-or-test mandate and the White House and Department of Labor haven’t said how long OIRA’s review will take. “We fully expect to be able to get something out within the next few weeks, but at this point it’s under review,” Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su told a gathering of business writers on Thursday.
The Biden administration has released few details about the standard. In a Sept. 9 policy statement, the White House said it would apply to employers with 100 or more employees and would require workers to be fully vaccinated or tested at least weekly (RIN:1218-AD42).
VIDEO: President Biden’s vaccine mandate rule for companies, the likely legal challenges and what to expect next.
The meetings are the only official opportunity for organizations concerned about the standard to raise their issues with federal officials. As an emergency temporary standard, the OSHA regulation didn’t go through the usual notice-and-comment review that can takes months to complete.
Still unclear is how the 100 employees would be calculated, whether stay-at-home workers would be included, which Covid-19 tests would be acceptable, and who would pay for testing.
Shortly after the president’s announcement that he was requesting the standard, the DOL held a few meetings with business and worker groups but that was a month before the draft arrived at OIRA.
In addition to representatives of organizations who requested the meetings and OIRA staff, the appointments typically include officials from OSHA, the Small Business Administration, and the DOL’s Office of the Solicitor.
During the sessions, government officials primarily listen to the concerns of business and worker representatives and don’t discuss what is in the draft regulation.
There is no limit on how many meetings OIRA must hold or on what date the sessions must end. OSHA’s Covid-19 health-care emergency temporary standard earlier this year went through a similar OIRA meeting process. The White House agency held about 50 meetings between April 28 and June 9, far more than most OSHA rulemakings.
The HR Policy Association, a trade organization representing Fortune 500 corporations, met with officials from the Office of Management and Budget of which OIRA is a unit, and from the Labor Department about the emergency standard, said Roger King, the association’s senior labor and employment counsel.
The administration was holding meetings with other groups throughout the day Thursday as well, King said, though he could not say who they were. Among the group’s talking points was a request for an extension of time before the rule takes effect, rather than place compliance requirements on employers before they’ve had time to grasp its parameters.
“A longer runway is necessary to get this right and to minimize disruption and problems in the workforce, which is already tenuous,” he said.
The officials only listened, without providing any details on the rulemaking, he said, as is standard during OIRA stakeholder meetings.
—With assistance from Courtney Rozen