Demands on Employers — Vaccine and/or Testing Mandates

As workers encounter vaccine and testing mandates in the workplaces, UE locals may be able to negotiate over the impacts of these mandates (“effects bargaining”), and in some cases, over the mandates themselves (“decision bargaining”). What your employer is required to negotiate over is governed by both your existing contract language as well as by which of the following categories covers your workplace:

  1. Federal workplaces (but not necessarily federal contractors, due to a court injunction for the time being) and most healthcare facilities generally must implement a vaccine mandate, but locals may be able to negotiate over the impact on members.

  2. While OSHA had announced a COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) covering workplaces with 100 or more employees, the U.S. Supreme Court put it on hold January 13, 2022 and on January 25 the Biden administration announced it was withdrawing the Emergency Temporary Standard and would instead seek to issue regulations through the regular rule-making process, which could take months.

    Some employers had begun implementing at least some portion of the vaccination or testing mandates, particularly by requiring employees to identify whether they were already vaccinated or not. However, affected employers are no longer under a federal order to take these steps.

  3. At this time, then, most workplaces are not impacted by any governmental requirements regarding vaccinations or testing, but employers may still attempt to implement their own vaccine or testing mandate. In this case, locals may be able to negotiate over the mandate itself, as well as its impacts.

In all cases, locals should work with their UE staff person to consider whether any contract provisions may allow the employer to unilaterally implement new health and safety rules.

Depending on the nature of your work and your local’s contract — if you have one — some or all of these ideas may be appropriate demands to make on your employer. Many locals have the right to bargain over any changes that affect workers’ safety and health, pay, hours, benefits or working conditions, and a vaccine mandate is such a change.

In the case of a vaccine mandate with no testing option, locals can demand that the employer provide:

  • Education about vaccines, their efficacy, and an opportunity to answer workers’ questions.
  • Vaccination on-site at the workplace at times that cover all shifts. Such an on-site opportunity should include a follow-up for 2nd shots and/or booster shots.
    • If on-site vaccination will occur, ask about the medical training of those administering the vaccine doses.
  • Paid time off to receive the vaccination, including time to travel to and from a vaccination clinic if the employer is not providing one at work.
    • If the federal ETS applies to your workplace, the employer must provide a minimum of four hours paid time off to receive each vaccine dose.
  • Paid sick days for any workers experiencing illness-like side effects following their vaccination.
    • If the federal ETS applies to your workplace, the employer must provide "reasonable time off" and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects.
  • A monetary benefit to all workers who show proof of vaccination, such as a paycheck bonus.
  • Additional paid sick time for all workers who show proof of vaccination.
  • Additional Paid Time Off/Vacation for all workers who show proof of vaccination.

In the case of a vaccine mandate where weekly testing is an option for workers, locals can choose demands from above but also demand that the employer provide:

  • Free testing on-site at the workplace, on paid time.
  • Paid sick time and job protection for a worker that tests positive until they are cleared to return to work, with no requirement that workers use accrued paid time off.
  • No interruption of medical or other benefits for a worker that tests positive.

UE encourages all locals to continue to make demands on their employers to keep the workplace safer and healthier, including cleanliness of the space, improved ventilation, and sufficient staffing and paid time off for workers to stay home when they are ill. You can find more ideas here.