As most of you are aware, the requirements for attesting to the Federal Employees vaccination status was released this week. We all knew this determination would be coming at some point soon. In a prior bulletin, NASCOE committed that it would work to stay abreast of the situation, research the legal side of the issue, and communicate member concerns to management.
The decision to require working conditions be dependent on vaccine status was made at the highest level of the federal government and it affects over 2 million employees. Notably, no unions or any movement in Congress has provided any avenue to overturn what the President has decided.
NASCOE is an employee association, not a union, representing approximately 7000 county office employees and as such, NASCOE has the ability to bargain and share concerns with FSA. NASCOE also employs an attorney and a political consultant for the benefit of members. Recently, NASCOE has used these resources, to address membership concerns about vaccines and testing:
- NASCOE has collected concerns and questions from members related to COVID-19 protocols being implemented.
- NASCOE has delivered membership concerns to FSA management on a daily basis.
- NASCOE has discussed and reviewed individual member suggestions with management.
- NASCOE has consulted the NASCOE attorney on the topics of mask mandates, vaccines in the workplace and testing. NASCOE cross references with our attorney what we learn from USDA, CDC, EEOC, DOJ and the news media for accuracy. The attorney is asked to look for areas where legal authorities are abused by the agency.
- NASCOE has collaborated with our full time NASCOE political consultant about legislative opportunities that may exist which involve mask mandates, vaccines, and workplace testing. Currently, our consultant sees no readily available solution from Congress on the topic at hand.
- NASCOE has conveyed to management the concern regarding the potential loss of employees due to COVID-19 protocols. The concern is great enough that NASCOE has asked management if a plan for re-hiring is in place to address continuity issues due to expedited departures.
The bottom line is that the government, like private sector employers, is able to implement safety measures they deem appropriate. While there are a lot of opinions on what our employer should be doing, the guidance we have received is that our employer has the legal authority to implement these measures and that there are no civil rights violations in the workplace related to COVID-19 safety measures. It should be noted that local businesses such as hospitals and restaurants and even large companies, such as Fox News and Walmart, are also requiring employees to disclose vaccination status.
NASCOE understands that membership from all over the nation have different views and there is not a consensus on this issue. Some members are in favor of vaccines, some are not in favor of vaccines and some members have concerns about medical privacy. None of these opinions are wrong, and as such, NASCOE has the responsibility to represent all membership and while NASCOE does not have the ability to change COVID-19 protocol, we can make sure that the voice of membership is heard.
We know the situation is very fluid and keeps changing. Employees won’t be required to take a vaccine, but many questions remain about COVID-19 testing. NASCOE intends to continue working with our attorney and political consultant to review additional COVID-19 policy as it is issued. We will work with management at FSA to determine where FSA has discretion in rulemaking and continue to push for control at the local level as much as possible. NASCOE will do its best to convey to FSA management that guidance needs to be consistent and clearly delivered so that employees can make the choices they feel are best.
In closing, NASCOE is committed to continuing to voice concerns, frustrations, and suggestions to management. As NASCOE has said from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCOE believes safety decisions are best handled at the local level where local conditions prevail.
The continued support you show NASCOE through good times and bad times is remarkable. We also value your continued feedback. Please work with your NASCOE state affiliate to pass along your suggestions to NASCOE leadership. We will continue to keep everyone abreast of information as it becomes available.
For the entire NASCOE Executive Committee and Committee Chairpersons, I’m Brandon Wilson, NASCOE President. Thank you and good night.