Thursday, November 11, 2021

As the Anti Vaccine Argument Rages so Truckers Aim Court Case at the US President Himself

Court of Appeal Must Rule on Mandatory Inoculations
Shipping News Feature

US – How times change, particularly when it comes to attitudes over vaccines it seems, a controversy which nowadays seems to engender fits of anger across the world between dissenting parties. When Dr Edward Jenner first stuck a hypodermic needle containing cow pox in the arm of his 9 year old gardener's son he could never have envisaged where that process would lead.

When the good doctor started that first experiment in vaccination in 1796 he started a process which would eventually see the end of smallpox, that scourge which had been killing 30% of all those infected for millennia and scarring the rest. By 1975 the world had seen the last case of the disease and could breathe a sigh of relief, but in the modern age beware the risk of offending against anyone’s human rights.

Whilst not as extreme as some anti vaccine arguments the latest pronouncement from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) falls foul of the now standard counter argument favoured by the ‘pro’ camp. If someone refuses to have the vaccine because it is against their ‘rights’, what about the rights of those they come in contact with?

Now the ATA, along with the Louisiana Motor Truck Association, the Mississippi Trucking Association and the Texas Trucking Association, have led a number of groups representing various facets of the supply chain in suing the Biden Administration over its employer-based Covid-19 vaccine mandate. ATA President and CEO Chris Spear presented a cogent case for the ‘anti’ brigade when he said:

“To be very clear, ATA and its member companies support efforts to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, our trucks and drivers have been on the front line in fighting this pandemic since the beginning, moving personal protective equipment, test kits, the vaccine itself and much more as the country locked down, but we believe that the Biden Administration has overstepped its statutory authority in issuing this Emergency Temporary Standard.”

“This standard arbitrarily picks winners and losers, and puts employers in an untenable position of forcing workers to choose between working and their private medical decisions, which is something that cannot be allowed. We told the administration that this mandate, given the nature of our industry and makeup of our workforce, could have devastating impacts on the supply chain and the economy and they have, unfortunately, chosen to move forward despite those warnings. So we are now, regrettably, forced to seek to have this mandate overturned in court.”

The ATA and its state partners filed their challenge in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and they were joined in the suit by the Food Marketing Institute, the International Warehouse Logistics Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the National Federation of Independent Business. Nicholas Geale, ATA vice president of workforce policy, concluded:

“We are asking the court to stay implementation of the mandate because we believe the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not satisfy the statutory requirements for issuing this Emergency Temporary Standard instead of going through the proper rulemaking process.

“A stay pending full review is essential to ensure our members can continue to keep the supply chain moving without the enormous disruptions this unlawful ETS will cause the trucking industry and our nation’s consumers, including the 80% percent of American communities that depend exclusively on trucks for their needs.”

The counter argument is of course just as persuasive, many drivers usually need to be in close contact with staff at delivery and collection points. The question is, does having a possibly infected person behind the wheel of an incoming truck violate those people’s rights? ATA President and CEO Chris Spear once more was set in how he sees the situation, saying:

“As we made clear in our comments to the Administration prior to the rule’s publication, drivers spend the vast majority of their workday alone in the cab and outside. The rule published yesterday exempts employees who exclusively work outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors, and all indications thus far from the Department of Labor suggest this exemption does apply to the commercial truck driver population.

“We continue to believe OSHA is using extraordinary authority unwisely, applying it across all industries at an arbitrary threshold of 100 employees that fails to factor in actual risks. We are weighing all options of recourse to ensure every segment of our industry’s workforce is shielded from the unintended consequences of this misguided mandate.”

So the Court of Appeal is left to decide on something which would need every single case to be studied to pronounce individual decisions, and that clearly cannot happen. It is the task of government to make the rules which benefit the bulk of the population, but the Americans love their rights as they interpret them. That minimal contact' is where the arguments may hinge. Should be an interesting case.

Photo: Courtesy Library of Congress.