President Joe Biden didn’t just announce a Covid-19 vaccine mandate on companies employing 100 or more people, he plans to enforce it.
On Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House quietly tucked an enforcement mechanism into their $3.5 trillion “reconciliation” bill, passed it out of the Budget Committee, and sent it to the House floor.
Buried on page 168 of the House Democrats’ 2,465-page mega bill is a tenfold increase in fines for employers that “willfully,” “repeatedly,” or even seriously violate a section of labor law that deals with hazards, death, or serious physical harm to their employees.
The increased fines on employers could run as high as $70,000 for serious infractions, and $700,000 for willful or repeated violations—almost three-quarters of a million dollars for each fine. If enacted into law, vax enforcement could bankrupt non-compliant companies even more quickly than the $14,000 OSHA fine anticipated under Biden’s announced mandate.
The Biden Administration has already started implementing its vaccine mandate enforcement blueprint:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set precedent this summer and published an emergency Covid-19 rule in the Federal Register taking jurisdiction over and providing justification for Covid-19 being a workplace hazard for healthcare employment.
- Early in September, Biden announced his 100-or-more employee Covid-19 vaccine mandate and tasked OSHA with drafting an enforcement rule to exert emergency vaccine compliance authority over companies with 100 or more employees.
- The legislative provision that passed the Budget Committee raises the OSHA fines for non-compliance 10 times higher – and up to $700,000 for each “willful” or “repeated” violation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not announced when the House will vote on the reconciliation bill that includes the new OSHA fines.
- If the legislation is enacted, OSHA could levy draconian fines to enforce Biden’s vaccine mandate, a move that could rapidly bankrupt non-compliant companies. The Biden mandate affects employers collectively employing an estimated 80 million workers.
The Democrats are playing hardball.
President Biden embraced an aggressive stance earlier this month when he challenged Republicans who are threatening lawsuits over what they decry as his federal overreach: “Have at it. … We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game.”
The provision tucked in the House reconciliation budget bill (on page 168) that increases OSHA fines reads:
SEC. 21004. ADJUSTMENT OF CIVIL PENALTIES.
(a) OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT OF 1970.—Section 17 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 666) is amended—
(1) in subsection (a)—
(A) by striking ‘‘$70,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$700,000’’; and
(B) by striking ‘‘$5,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$50,000’’;
(2) in subsection (b), by striking ‘‘$7,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$70,000’’; and
(3) in subsection (d), by striking ‘‘$7,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$70,000’’
That provision would change existing law relating to OSHA’s enforcement fines, the very same section of law whose fines OSHA referenced in its June Covid-19 healthcare worker rule and is likely to use again to enforce its forthcoming vaccine compliance rules.
The Existing Law
29 U.S.C.§ 666 lays out OSHA enforcement fine levels. The 1970-enacted law reads:
29 U.S. Code § 666 – Civil and criminal penalties
(a) Willful or repeated violation Any employer who willfully or repeatedly violates the requirements of section 654 of this title, any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 655 of this title, or regulations prescribed pursuant to this chapter may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $70,000 for each violation, but not less than $5,000 for each willful violation
(b) Citation for serious violation Any employer who has received a citation for a serious violation of the requirements of section 654 of this title, of any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 655 of this title, or of any regulations prescribed pursuant to this chapter, shall be assessed a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each such violation [emphasis added].
Each year, OSHA adjusts these penalties for inflation, so for 2021, the fines are not actually capped at $70,000 and $7,000, but $136,532 and $13,653 per violation. If House Democrats get their way, by enacting the page 168 changes, those fines would increase to $700,000 for willful and repeated violations and $70,000 for serious violations.
Section 654, cross-referenced in the OSHA enforcement penalty code, outlines the law requiring workplaces to be “free from recognized hazards” causing harm or death:
29 U.S. Code § 654 – Duties of employers and employees
(a) Each employer—
(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this chapter.
(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this chapter which are applicable to his own actions and conduct [emphasis added].
OSHA has already published a rule this year claiming Covid-19 is a workplace hazard, and the agency is using this provision of law to assert and enforce its authority. It is likely the new rule to enforce Biden’s mandate will also use this authority, and by extension use the fines upon enforcement.
Huge Crippling OSHA Fines, Likely By Design
The crippling change described on page 168 of the Democrats’ bill isn’t a typo or a clerical error. It was inserted by design and, likely, with the hope that no one would notice before Democrats ram the bill through Congress.
If enacted, it could bankrupt a whole host of companies that do not believe they should have to comply with the Biden administration’s mandate or harbor the cost of intrusive, weekly tests.
In its June 2021 emergency rule affecting health care workers, OSHA complained it was having a hard time motivating employers with its paltry $13,653 fine:
“OSHA has been limited in its ability to impose penalties high enough to motivate the very large employers who are unlikely to be deterred by penalty assessments of tens of thousands of dollars, but whose noncompliance can endanger thousands of workers …”
Greece imposes $114 monthly fine on unvaccinated people over 60
Residents in Greece over 60 years old will have to undergo mandatory vaccinations against coronavirus or face monthly 100-euro ($114) fines beginning next year, the prime minister announced Tuesday, declaring the country’s first general inoculation mandate.
The Greek government decided upon the measure in response to a surge in new daily infections and the emergence of the omicron variant. It will take effect on Jan. 16 and the fines will be added to tax bills, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised statement.
Greece’s overall COVID-19 death toll exceeded 18,000 this week with confirmed new infections at high levels. Roughly a quarter of the country’s adult population remains unvaccinated.
Vaccination mandates were introduced over the summer for health care workers and fire service rescuers in Greece, with those failing to comply being suspended from their jobs indefinitely without pay.
The government has ruled out imposing new lockdowns but says it is targeting the elderly with tougher restrictions to protect the public health service as ICU occupancy is near capacity nationwide.
“The new omicron variant is a concern for us and means we must be vigilant,” Mitsotakis said.
“Unfortunately, of the 580,000 unvaccinated of our fellow citizens over the age of 60, only 60,000 set up appointments to get vaccinated in November,” he said. “But it is mainly people over 60 who require hospital treatment and sadly lose their life. These deaths are unnecessary.”
The opposition left-wing Syriza party accused the center-right government of shifting the responsibility of battling the virus onto ordinary Greeks and “targeting people over 60 … with punitive and financially debilitating measures that haven’t been implemented anywhere else in the world.”
Doctor on OMICRON: “Looking at the the mildness of the symptoms, there is no reason for panicking, as we don’t see severely ill patients”
“The hype that’s been created out there in the media & worldwide doesn’t correlate with the clinical picture”
Fauci says ‘we’re going to have to start living with COVID’
“I don’t think we’re going to eradicate it.”
Chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said in an interview that aired Sunday that he believes people will have to begin “living with COVID,” expressing doubt that the virus will be eradicated.
Speaking to host Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Fauci touched on previous remarks in which he said he would like to see daily infections fall below 10,000 in order for the U.S. to be able to “live with COVID.” Brennan noted that current COVID-19 infection rates are now approaching 80,000 per day.
Fauci said this current infection level is “unacceptable.”
“I mean, we’ve heard people say, understandably, they’re trying to look for a metric to give to the public that we’re going to have to start living with COVID. I believe that’s the case because I don’t think we’re going to eradicate it. We’ve only eradicated one infection of mankind, and that’s smallpox. I don’t think we’re even going to eliminate it,” the infectious diseases expert said.
Fauci said illnesses such as malaria, polio and measles have become nearly nonexistent through “a very, very, very intensive vaccine campaign.”
Brennan also asked Fauci if the U.S. was currently experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19 cases.
“Well, we certainly have the potential to go into a fifth wave. And the fifth wave, or the magnitude of any increase, if you want to call it that it, will turn into a wave, will really be dependent upon what we do in the next few weeks to a couple of months,” said Fauci.
He added that the millions of eligible U.S. residents who have not gotten vaccinated, compounded with those who are beginning to experience waning immunity from their initial doses, have resulted in a diminished level of community immunity.
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