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Ohio files suit challenging vaccine mandates

On Nov. 5, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and six other attorneys general sued the Biden administration in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, asserting that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration lacks authority to force tens of millions of Americans in the private sector to get vaccinated.

The states are asking the Sixth Circuit to stop implementation of the vaccine mandate while the case is litigated.

“A nationwide vaccine mandate that has nothing to do with workplace risk is a dangerous and unlawful use of executive power,” Yost said. “Congress has not given the president the power to make personal health-care decisions for all Americans who just so happen to work at a company with at least 100 employees.”

The vaccine mandate is a serious concern for many Ohio agribusinesses already struggling to find enough labor.

“This brought shockwaves to our industry. I heard a lot of concern from our companies’ CEOs about that. When you look at current agribusiness labor shortages, we are probably 10% to 20% short at any given company,” said Chris Henney, with the Ohio AgriBusiness Association. “If that mandate goes through we have a lot of folks who work for our companies in our rural areas for one reason or another who have chosen and will continue to choose not to get vaccinated. It could be more like a 30% to 40% shortage of workers for some of these companies over 100 employees, which includes many of our co-ops and other agribusinesses.”

Despite warnings from attorneys general across the country about the legality of a vaccine mandate, the Biden administration formally issued the emergency temporary standard in early November. The coalition of attorneys general argues that the power to issue emergency temporary standards was delegated to OSHA by Congress for the express purpose of protecting employees from grave dangers posed by exposure to substances or harmful toxins encountered at work, such as benzyne or beryllium. 

That authority does not extend to risks that are equally prevalent at work as at home or the grocery store. The coalition writes in the lawsuit that just last year, “OSHA refused to issue a nationwide emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 because ‘COVID-19 is a community-wide hazard that is not unique to the workplace.’”

The coalition also contends that the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate prohibits sovereign states from enacting and enforcing their own policies in response to the pandemic.

“Each Petitioner State has enacted its own laws and policies — or declined to issue certain mandates — in a way that balances the need for public health with the right of its citizens,” the lawsuit said. OSHA’s mandate takes away that power from the states and prevents policymakers from enacting policies that benefit their respective states.

Yost joined the lawsuit alongside attorneys general from Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia.  

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