(The Center Square) – Several Iowa politicians and business leaders responded to the President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates announced Thursday.
Under the president's plan, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will mandate private employers with at least 100 employees require all their employees either receive COVID-19 vaccines or get tested for COVID-19 each week. Further, all federal employees and contractors must get the vaccine.
“Our plan takes on the elected officials in states that are undermining the life-saving actions we need to take to defeat COVID-19," Biden tweeted Friday. “If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, we will get them out of the way.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds, who signed a law in May banning mask mandates for students and school staff, tweeted Friday the plan “will only worsen our workforce shortage and further limit our economic recovery.”
“As I’ve said all along, I believe and trust in Iowans to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families,” she said. “It’s time for President Biden to do the same. Enough is enough.”
Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, told The Center Square in a texted statement that he believes the executive orders are “unconstitutional and profoundly disrespectful of individual liberty” and that the president, in his remarks, “seemed to set the stage for pitting Americans against one another” in calling the pandemic “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
“I hope that the state of Iowa will join in lawsuits against these unconstitutional executive orders, and I will do all in my power to stand up for individual liberty that is now under assault by the federal government under the Biden administration,” he said.
Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, called Biden “an authoritarian who has no regard for the foundational principles of our republic” in a texted statement to The Center Square.
The Kirkwood Institute President and Chief Counsel Alan Ostergren told The Center Square in an emailed statement that details of the order are unknown.
“No one disputes the general idea that if OSHA discovers some new hazard in the workplace, a chemical discovered to cause illnesses for example, it can move quickly to protect workers,” he said. “But that is not what is proposed here. President Biden is directing employers to control the health decisions of their workers outside of the workplace. The OSHA statute cannot be stretched that far. This will likely end up like the CDC eviction moratorium: blocked by the courts as an abuse of the authority given to the federal government.”
Iowa Restaurant Association President and CEO Jessica Dunker told The Center Square in a texted statement that it’s “still a little early to say” since rules have not yet been written regarding whether “100 employees” is “per establishment” or “per operating group.”
“However, we have an incredibly diverse workforce so mandates likely won’t be well received,” she said. “Even for those with less than 100 employees, we will continue to see lots of encouragement for vaccination but unlikely many will require it.”
Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Michael Ralston told The Center Square in an emailed statement that ABI members have managed to stay open “while taking the best possible care of our workforces” and contributed to addressing COVID-19 through producing safety equipment, making donations to healthcare facilities, and keeping the supply chain open. “Many” members have mandated employees wear masks and get vaccinated against COVID-19 and ABI “will continue to strongly urge” Iowans to get the vaccine.
“Iowa’s policymakers backstopped these efforts by providing liability protections to essential businesses … [and] also recognized that mandates on businesses from policymakers were counterproductive as business owners, those closest to the workplaces, can best navigate the correct COVID-19 response for their individual situations,” he said. “[The executive order] directing the Department of Labor to develop an emergency temporary standard requiring employers to mandate that all employees are vaccinated … fails to recognize what is understood in Iowa, that any mandate in the workplace inhibits an employer’s ability to manage the end of Covid-19, keep the economy running and the nation fed.”
Iowa Business Council Executive Director Joe Murphy told The Center Square in an emailed statement that policy makers should consider the challenges and consequences the mandate presents to business operations.
“In the midst of the most acute labor shortage in our state’s history, we worry about unintended consequences related to workforce mandates that impact certain companies and not others,” Murphy said.
The Iowa Health Care Association was unable to respond by press time.