Missouri AG Eric Schmitt says OSHA vaccine mandate could worsen supply chain crisis

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt believes a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate on private businesses would worsen the national supply chain crisis and truck driver shortage.

Schmitt has filed three lawsuits against the vaccine rule that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced last month requiring U.S. businesses with 100 employees or more to ensure all their workers are either fully vaccinated or subject to weekly testing and mask-wearing.

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Workers at businesses with 100 employees or more – representing an estimated 84 million employees nationwide – who refuse to get the vaccine may turn to other, smaller companies to find work, Schmitt said.

"They will just go to a company that doesn't have the mandate," the attorney general told Fox News Digital in a Tuesday interview, adding, however, that he "would fully expect the Biden administration in their egregious actions to go after small businesses next."

Eric Schmitt, Missouri attorney general, speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Sept. 9, 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) (Getty Images)

"But the impact will affect every aspect of the supply chain in the tight labor market we're in right now," he said. "We just can't afford to have this kind of disruption right now over pure politics."

Schmitt pointed specifically to the trucking industry, which is facing a historic worker shortage.

Beyond losing drivers, companies face hefty fines under the new rule at $14,000 per violation and up to $136,532 for "willful" violations. 

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Those workers who choose not to get vaccinated would need to submit to weekly coronavirus tests and wear masks under the new OSHA rule, both of which trucking companies say would be impossible to enforce with drivers on the road all over the country at any given time.

A coalition of more than 90 associations last month urged the Biden administration to exempt the trucking industry from the mandate, warning that the regulation would decimate the industry and make the supply chain crisis worse.

A driver inside a haulage truck as it leaves the Port of Dover Ltd. in Dover, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

"There just aren't enough truck drivers already," Schmitt explained. "One of the things I hear from business owners and trucking companies is they can't find enough workers right now. Well, if you take a large percentage of folks who, you know, chose not to be vaccinated, who will just not continue to work in the trucking industry, it's going to further exacerbate these supply chain issues in a way that I'm not sure the folks in Washington at their cocktail parties fully appreciate."

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An exacerbated driver shortage will "be devastating, not just for the loss of jobs" for businesses that are already "being severely crippled" by the aftermath of the pandemic, Schmitt said, but for the U.S. economy and those who rely on an efficient supply chain to keep their businesses running, particularly during the holidays.

President Biden on Dec. 16 introduced the "Trucking Action Plan" to "strengthen America's trucking workforce." The plan includes easier access to commercial driver’s licenses, an effort to get companies to expand Registered Apprenticeship programs and efforts to strengthen veteran outreach.

But the administration still plans to follow through with vaccine mandates despite legal challenges from attorneys general, governors and state and U.S. lawmakers from across the country.

Schmitt pointed to issues with the mandate that extend beyond the supply chain crisis and worker shortages the U.S. is currently facing.

"The answer here is not this unprecedented historical overreach, trying to dictate people's lives for power and control, but rather letting people make these decisions themselves and … for their families," he said. "…We have to be aggressive on every front of this kind of overreach in dislodging the power from these COVID tyrants who never should have had it in the first place. And that's what these lawsuits are all about."

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The mandate was stalled in early November by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. But last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay.

A Labor Department spokesperson told Fox News on Dec. 18 it was "gratified" by the court's decision to dissolve the blockade. 

"OSHA can now once again implement this vital workplace health standard, which will protect the health of workers by mitigating the spread of the unprecedented virus in the workplace," the spokesperson said. Adding that the department will exercise "enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates" of the mandate. 

Employees now have until Jan. 10 to get vaccinated, the spokesperson said. It will also temporarily halt citations for noncompliance until Feb. 9.

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Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Monday asked the administration to respond to a flood of appeals filed against the Sixth Circuit ruling.

The Supreme Court is not considering the full validity of the OSHA emergency temporary standard (ETS) on vaccines. It is only considering whether to temporarily halt the implementation of the rule while litigation in lower courts decides the issue on the merits

FOX Business' Breck Dumas, Caitlin McFall and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.

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