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Unions have ‘role to play’ in enforcement of Biden’s vaccine mandate

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Lindsey Knewstub

The Biden administration’s mandate that federal contract workers and workers at private-sector businesses be vaccinated against Covid-19 has stirred protests across the country.

Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations says while labor unions play a role in negotiating what the consequences are for non-compliance with the mandate, unions members who oppose the mandate for political considerations may have to make the hard choice between their job and personal beliefs.


Patricia Campos-Medina

Patricia Campos-Medina

Executive director of the Worker Institute

Vaccination mandates work because they reinforce the fact that we all have a mutual responsibility to keep each other healthy. We need to get back to a sense that issues of public health and public safety are a common goods dilemma to solve, and only the government can play a role to make sure that we are all safe in a public health or safety crisis. 

With that said, labor unions play a role in negotiating what the consequences for non-compliance are—discipline or termination. Those are issues that have always been negotiated under a collective bargaining agreement in unionized environments and that should not change for vaccinations mandates.

“Unions have a role to play in the enforcement of the mandate. Ultimately, those unions members who oppose mandates for political considerations will have to make a choice between their job and their personal choices. Personal choices do not change the fact that when it comes to public health, public decisions are best made on the science not on the politics of the moment.”

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