Wisconsin rotational molder Plasticraft Corp. is suing to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine and testing rule, saying it intrudes into what should be a company and employee decision.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Nov. 4 issued an emergency rule requiring companies with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or regularly test for the coronavirus.
But the Darien, Wis.-based Plasticraft and a sister company making metal components joined with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a self-described conservative legal group, to file suit on Nov. 4 in federal court in Chicago arguing that the new rule oversteps the federal government's authority.
"The order is unconscionable," said Steve Fettig, secretary and treasurer at both companies. "OSHA does not know how to run our companies. We do. OSHA does not know how to keep our employees safe. We do."
In a statement issued by WILL, Fettig said the company has operated successfully "since the start of the pandemic without the interference of a federal bureaucracy."
"We respect our employees' fundamental right to make their own private, difficult medical choices," Fettig said.
WILL said the OSHA rule circumvents normal federal rule-making and congressional authority to claim emergency powers.
"However you feel about the COVID vaccine or even the very different question of a vaccine mandate, the Biden administration is claiming an extraordinary power to rule by decree that could be used in the future in almost unlimited and unforeseeable ways," said Rick Esenberg, WILL president and general counsel.
OSHA and Department of Labor officials did not respond to a request for comment but a DOL spokesperson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that it's clearly within its legal powers given the risks to unvaccinated people in workplaces.
"The evidence shows us that unvaccinated employees are in grave danger of contracting COVID-19 from exposure to contagious people in the workplace and facing serious illness or death, and that vaccination or weekly testing and face coverings are necessary to protect them," DOL said. "This rule is well within OSHA's authority under the OSH Act, and consistent with OSHA's requirements to protect workers."
Some large companies have mandated vaccines for employees, like United Airlines and Tyson Foods Inc. The National Association of Manufacturers mandated vaccines for its staff in August, although the Washington-based NAM said it had a 98 percent voluntary vaccination rate before that.
Some public health experts have argued that employer mandates are the most efficient way to increase vaccine levels, but Plasticraft's lawsuit called the OSHA rule arbitrary for failing to account for different conditions within companies.
A WILL statement said that 70 percent of adult Americans are fully vaccinated and that 80 percent have at least one dose and that OSHA hasn't demonstrated why the emergency rule is needed now.
"The agency must prove something has changed, not simply that the president is impatient," WILL said.
The legal group said Plasticraft, a custom rotomolder and blow molder with a 300,000-square-foot factory, is able to ventilate the high-ceilinged factory and turn over air on an hourly basis for its 160 employees.