This is a weekly article highlighting labor topics that have developed by the legislative and executive branches of the United States over the past week.
In this issue, we cover:
While both houses of the US Congress were on recess this week, the first session of the 117th Congress is expected to officially adjourn at the end of the month. Lawmakers will return to Washington for the second session of the 117th Congress when it is convened on January 3, 2022.
Update on legal challenges to the federal vaccine mandate. After the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned the suspension of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Temporary Emergency (ETS) vaccine or test ) in a 2-1 decision last Friday, OSHA promptly posted new compliance dates on its ETS website. Employers with 100 or more employees must now comply with the provisions of the ETS by January 10, 2022. If an employer allows employees to be tested instead, then unvaccinated employees must begin regular testing by February 9, 2022, if they are in the workplace.
This week, the United States Supreme Court has scheduled expedited arguments on the Sixth Circuit Court’s decision to lift the OSHA ETS suspension by the Fifth Court. The Supreme Court is due to hear oral arguments from the petitioners and OSHA on January 7, 2022, just three days before OSHA begins enforcing the ETS. The court will also hear arguments on the suspension of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) immunization mandate for healthcare workers participating in government Medicare and Medicaid programs.
On December 22, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement on the special hearing of the Supreme Court. She said of the Biden administration’s position:
We are confident in the legal authority of politicians and DOJ [the U.S. Department of Justice] will vigorously defend both before the Supreme Court.
Notable developments in the Ministry of Labor. On December 20, the US Department of Labor awarded an $ 8 million grant to support La Isla Network’s efforts to improve occupational safety and health in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The focus will be on occupational diseases, injuries, chronic kidney disease of non-traditional causes and COVID-19 in the agricultural sectors of the three countries and in the textile industry of El Salvador.
Also on December 20, the Ministry of Labor awarded $ 5 million in a cooperation agreement with the American Center for International Labor Solidarity to improve workers’ rights in agricultural supply chains in Honduras and Guatemala, and in the garment sector in El Salvador . The project will prioritize underserved communities and focus on gender and race equity to address the systemic violation of internationally recognized workers’ rights in the agriculture and garment sectors – or “Maquila” -.
On December 21, the Ministry of Labor awarded $ 5 million in a cooperative agreement with Social Accountability International to focus on preventing and reducing forced labor and child labor abuse in Malaysia’s palm oil and garment industries. The funding will support a project working with unions, civil organizations, migrant worker community leaders, government labor inspectors and recruitment agencies to raise awareness of the root causes of forced labor and child labor abuse in these communities. industries in Malaysia.
On December 23, the Ministry of Labor awarded $ 5 million in a cooperation agreement for the International Labor Organization to focus on strengthening decent working conditions in Peru and Ecuador by tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in coastal communities. Illegal fishing is estimated to account for 15 percent of global fish production (or around 26 million tonnes of fish per year).
COVID-19 Updates. South African scientists reported this week that the country passed the peak of Omicron variant cases, around three weeks after the first cases were detected. Data from South Africa seem to indicate fewer hospitalizations and cases of severe side effects overall compared to previous variants of the coronavirus.
CDC Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Rochelle Walensky, confirmed on Wednesday that the Omicron variant has surpassed as the dominant COVID-19 strain, accounting for 90% of confirmed cases, in most areas the United States. U.S. officials have warned that differences in demographics and other factors do not necessarily mean the United States will experience a similar case trajectory or a decrease in hospitalizations and severe side effects as in South Africa. U.S. officials are also closely monitoring data from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and New York. All of these regions are experiencing a massive increase in Omicron cases and have a higher vaccine population rate than South Africa.
On December 22, US President Joe Biden address the nation, acknowledging that Americans are frustrated with the latest wave of Omicron cases and that some restrictions are being put back in place. He announced that the US government is preparing to purchase 500,000 COVID home test kits and mail them to those who want them, with deliveries starting in January. He explained that the administration would create a website in January where people could order free at-home tests. President Biden also urged Americans to get vaccinated and boosted, noting that former President Donald Trump recently received his COVID-19 booster. The president also said the federal government is setting up new pop-up vaccination clinics across the country.
Separately, on December 22, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Paxlovid from Pfizer for use in persons over 12 years of age. The next day, the FDA approved EUA for Merck / Ridgeback’s antiviral pill for COVID-19, molnupiravir, for patients 18 years and older, noting that it could affect bone and cartilage growth. Merck is set to ship hundreds of thousands of treatments over the next few days and a million over the next few weeks. Pfizer plans to ship approximately 250,000 courses to the United States in January.
© Copyright 2021 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPRevue nationale de droit, volume XI, number 361