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President Joe Biden on Thursday defended his mandate to vaccinate most of the country’s private company workers against covid-19.
A month after announcing that his administration will develop a policy to mandate vaccinations for employees of all companies with 100 or more workers, Biden traveled to the Chicago suburbs to promote the idea.
“I know the vaccination requirements are tough medicine. Unpopular with some. Politics for others. But they’re lifesaving. They’re game-changing for our country,” Biden said from Elk Grove Village, where he visited a construction company that has required vaccinations for its employees.
Biden’s mandate will affect some 80 million workers, more than two-thirds of the nation’s workforce; but it has not yet gone into effect: the Labor Department is still developing an emergency regulation to enforce it, and it is unclear when it will be introduced.
That future measure has generated strong resistance from Republican opposition in the country, where attorneys general in at least 24 states have threatened possible legal action to try to stop it for violating Americans’ individual liberties.
The state of Arizona has already sued the Biden Administration over the issue, and other territories, such as Missouri, are exploring the possibility of passing state laws that could prevent the enforcement of the mandatory regulation in their jurisdiction.
In the private sector, many companies fear that the mandate could lead some employees to leave their jobs, at a time of difficulty in finding and retaining staff.
Companies that fail to comply with the mandate will face “significant” fines of up to $13,600 per violation, according to the White House.
Biden said Thursday that he doesn’t understand the opposition to the vaccination requirements.
“I call on more companies to act (to impose vaccination mandates on their own),” stressed Biden, who boasted of having met with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, who imposed the mandatory vaccination measure and after laying off hundreds of employees. The company went from having 59 % of the workforce vaccinated, to 99 %, something considered by the Biden Administration as an achievement, despite the fact that hundreds of families lost their jobs and income.