OpEd: Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Would Cripple Businesses
Originally published in Newsweek
The Biden administration is moving full steam ahead on its illegal vaccine mandate, urging businesses to implement the requirement even after a federal appeals court issued an emergency stay. Intruding on personal medical decisions is bad enough, but the president has never acknowledged the unprecedented financial burden the OSHA mandate would place on more than 100,000 businesses and their employees.
Brandon Trosclair, who employs nearly 500 workers across 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi, is one of many business owners caught in the administration’s crosshairs. His business would be subject to the mandate, but he has chosen to stand up for his—and his employees’—rights. A lawsuit filed by the Pelican Institute and the Liberty Justice Center on Mr. Trosclair’s behalf was instrumental in convincing the court to suspend the mandate on November 6.
Mr. Trosclair believes his employees can make their own decisions about the vaccine, and that the mandate will devastate businesses like his and cost employees dearly.
He’s right. If the mandate stands, businesses risk hemorrhaging workers. Recent reports suggest 72 percent of unvaccinated employees would quit their jobs if they are ordered to be vaccinated. For many workers at Mr. Trosclair’s stores, this may be less of a principled choice and more of a practical financial decision.
The mandate, which encourages employers to push the costs of weekly COVID tests onto their unvaccinated workers, could cut deeply into budgets of people already struggling to make ends meet. According to CVS Pharmacy, PCR tests can cost more than $100 for those paying out of pocket. Over-the-counter tests are much cheaper but already hard to come by. Scarcity and pricing would naturally worsen if millions of unvaccinated workers must undergo weekly mass testing under the Biden mandate.
Over the course of a year, the cost of PCR tests could reach more than $5,000 for an employee who must foot the bill. The average annual pay for grocery store jobs in Louisiana is $29,387. An unvaccinated employee making this salary, if forced to submit to weekly testing, would in effect be facing a 17 percent pay cut.
To prevent an employee exodus, many employers may attempt to pay for weekly COVID tests themselves. This, however, would bring about its own massive burden for business owners like Mr. Trosclair. Based on CDC data, vaccination rates across Louisiana and Mississippi—where Brandon owns stores—average about 47 percent. Applying this rate to Mr. Trosclair’s workforce results in more than 260 unvaccinated employees who would require weekly tests. Weekly COVID tests for these employees would cost a whopping $26,000, or more than $1.3 million per year.
If business owners like Mr. Trosclair choose not to ensure their employees are either vaccinated or regularly tested, the financial consequences are even worse. OSHA’s $13,653 per-violation fine could be just the tip of the iceberg. News reports indicate that President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better spending plan would tighten the screws even further, increasing the penalties to $70,000 or even $700,000 for repeated violations.
All of this ignores the cost of tracking mandate compliance in a way that will satisfy federal regulators and avoid hefty fines. Implementing a complex system to record proof of vaccination and the results of weekly tests—while protecting sensitive health data—across multiple business locations in multiple states for hundreds of employees would be staggeringly expensive and require additional hiring just to administer it effectively.
Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandate exceeds the authority of the executive branch, and what’s more, it represents an unmanageable burden for countless employees and businesses. Courts, and the American public, should recognize this fact. Employers like Mr. Trosclair should not be forced to weigh the livelihoods of their workers against the existence of their businesses.