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Missouri Farm Bureau mounts legal challenge to federal vaccine mandate

The Missouri Farm Bureau, along with a handful of other employers, mounted a legal challenge to the federal coronavirus vaccine mandate covering large employers Tuesday. 

The rule from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers with at least 100 workers to ensure they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly tests by Jan. 4. Employers must require unvaccinated employees wear a face covering and provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and recover from side effects by Dec. 5. 

The Missouri Farm Bureau — along with MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil Company, and Doyle Manufacturing Company — argued the rule would disrupt workforces while the country already grapples with supply chain issues. The group alleged OSHA does not have the statutory authority to implement the mandate.  

Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins said while he encourages members to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the decision should ultimately be left up to individuals in consultation with their doctors.

“The Biden administration’s mandate is egregious government overreach that takes away individuals’ rights to make their own medical decisions. It also is an unlawful imposition on private employers and extremely counterproductive to the nation’s economic recovery,” Hawkins said. “At a time of rampant labor shortages, this unlawful mandate only compounds the problem and adds costly and burdensome regulatory red tape on employers.” 

“The impact on organizations like ours and employers across the country cannot be overlooked,” Hawkins said. 

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit earlier this month to challenge the workplace vaccine mandate along with attorneys general from 10 other states. 

A federal appeals court panel has placed the OSHA mandate on hold, calling it “staggeringly overbroad.” The Department of Justice has vowed to “vigorously defend” the requirement. 

Ernie Verslues, president and CEO of MFA Incorporated, and Catherine Doyle, human resources director for Doyle Equipment Manufacturing, both said they have put a premium on employee and customer safety throughout the pandemic but view vaccination as a personal choice. 

“We have an incredible workforce at Doyle and fear that it will become severely depleted if this mandate goes into effect,” Doyle said. 

“To flourish in the long term, United States companies must stand up for the rights of our employees and the customers they serve. Missouri Farm Bureau, MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil Company, and Doyle Manufacturing have conscientious and diligent employees who deserve the right to make their own medical decisions and to be treated with dignity. The petition was filed in that spirit,” the coalition said in a news release Tuesday. 

“Vaccination requirements are good for the economy. They not only increase vaccination rates but they help send people back to work — as many as 5 million American workers,” President Joe Biden previously said. “They make our economy more resilient in the face of COVID and keep our businesses open.”