Federal workers' union asks Biden to delay vaccine deadline

Federal workers' union asks Biden to delay vaccine deadline
© Associated Press/Susan Walsh

The American Federation of Government Employees on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to delay the deadline for federal workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from Nov. 22 to Jan. 4.

The request comes after the Biden administration pushed back the deadline for federal contractors to get vaccinated from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4 to align with the vaccine-or-test mandate for large businesses. 

The labor union, which represents around 700,000 federal and Washington, D.C., government workers, said it is unfair that the deadline for federal employees was not delayed as well.

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“This double standard has caused confusion and distress among federal employees due to disparate treatment and incongruent deadlines for people who perform the government’s work in the same settings,” Everett Kelley, the union’s president, wrote in a letter to White House officials Tuesday. 

“It is inexcusable that contractors are being given the entire holiday season to meet the mandates, while federal employees continue to be subject to the November 22 deadline,” he added. “The effect upon morale of federal employees being subject to possible discipline at this time of the year cannot be overstated.”

President BidenJoe BidenDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Pfizer to apply for COVID-19 booster approval for 16- and 17-year-olds: report Coronavirus variant raises fresh concerns for economy MORE’s federal vaccine mandate will affect around 4 million federal workers, who will not have the option of undergoing weekly testing as an alternative to the vaccine.

Congressional Republicans have warned that the federal vaccine requirement could lead to staffing issues at agencies like the Bureau of Prisons and the Border Patrol where large numbers of federal employees are still not vaccinated.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsUS braces for omicron to hit Europe's COVID-19 surge highlights warnings for US Overnight Health Care — Presented by Emergent Biosolutions — 2.6M children vaccinated in first two weeks MORE said last month that federal employees who do not comply would undergo “counseling” as a first step. They would later face suspensions and eventually be fired.

“It’s important to remember that this is a process and the point here is to get people vaccinated, not to punish them,” he said. “So, agencies will not be removing employees from federal service until after they’ve gone through a process of education and counseling.”