Biden’s Vaccine Mandates Needlessly Polarize, Impede Private Sector Labor Market

COMMENTARY Jobs and Labor

Biden’s Vaccine Mandates Needlessly Polarize, Impede Private Sector Labor Market

Oct 15th, 2021 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Elizabeth Hanke

Research Fellow, Labor Economics and Policy

Elizabeth is a Research Fellow for Labor Economics and Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Protesters gather in Raleigh, NC, United States on September 18, 2021 Peter Zay / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The Biden administration is impeding the private sector through its federal vaccine mandates.

Even Biden’s union allies have hesitated in implementing the mandate for their workers.

It seems clear that rules implemented by the Biden administration are the greatest obstacle blocking private firms from achieving economic success.

The Biden administration is impeding the private sector through its federal vaccine mandates.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday forwarded a vaccine rule to the Office of Management and Budget that requires vaccination of workers at businesses with 100 or more employees. Employees who refuse vaccination would have compulsory weekly testing. An estimated 80 million private sector workers will be affected by the mandate.

Firms that don’t adhere to President Joe Biden’s mandate might be subject to hefty fines up to $70,000 for extreme violations and $700,000 for repeat violations.

Although vaccines are a safe and effective way to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, government intervention—especially in labor markets—can be disruptive. Biden’s mandate ostracizes workers who choose to remain unvaccinated and puts downward pressure on the potential success of private businesses.

More concerningly, Biden’s mandate is misaligned with the current needs of the labor market.

Higher barriers to employment, such as vaccine mandates, can hinder individuals from joining the labor force and make it more difficult to find jobs, resulting in higher levels of unemployment.

These labor shortages can lead to higher operating costs and ultimately to higher consumer prices. The airline industry provides a good example. Southwest Airlines has previously experienced worker shortages and canceled approximately 1,800 flights over the past weekend, allegedly due to poor weather conditions.

Even Biden’s union allies have hesitated in implementing the mandate for their workers.

Meatpacking company Tyson Foods was able to reach a deal with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represent more than half of Tyson’s unionized workforce. In return, Tyson workers earn additional paid sick leave, which increases labor costs and imposes higher prices on American consumers.

The federal mandate, the threat of fines, and the cost of compliance will continue to obstruct the labor market and lead to ongoing structural economic problems.

With inflation up 5.4% year over year in September and congestion at California ports leading to product and material shortages, private sector firms face an increasingly difficult set of challenges.

Those conditions may provide a glimpse into the future of private businesses subject to the federal mandate. Higher consumer prices, in addition to an already high inflation rate, are inconsistent with long-term economic growth.

The free market is the most efficient mechanism to support growth and lead businesses on a path to economic success.

Vaccine mandates, along with most other government mandates, impose a regulatory burden for private businesses and increase government presence. Americans who own and operate businesses in the private sector should have the freedom to choose how to run their business.

Improving current economic conditions can be achieved through limited government interference and less worker polarization.

Businesses have been suffering from pandemic-related restrictions and need opportunity to rebound. That includes hiring more workers to meet supply-side demand and creating a less restrictive environment where businesses can thrive.

Implementation of the federal mandate curbs employment, creates needless employment barriers, and increases production costs. Those factors not only inhibit conventional market freedom, but will also artificially extend the post-pandemic recovery.

As American firms struggle to meet the federal mandate, labor shortages continue to plague the U.S. economy. The resulting rise in consumer prices diminishes purchasing power, making American businesses, workers, and families worse off than they were pre-pandemic.

It seems clear that rules implemented by the Biden administration are the greatest obstacle blocking private firms from achieving economic success.

Relaxing those rules would help the labor market—and America—prevail.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal