MISSOULA — Sen. Jon Tester believes the focus should remain on individual action as the debate continues over a federal requirement for large employers to require workers to be vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had initially ordered companies with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or testing. But following a Nov. 12 court ruling, OSHA suspended that rule pending "further court order".
During a recent visit to Missoula, we asked Tester whether the agency's rule was "overreach" as some have claimed.
"I would have probably done if different myself. But look, I mean hindsight is always 20-20,” Tester said. “And in the end, I think what the President wanted to do is he wanted to get this pandemic behind us. It's not behind us yet. And we all need to work together to make sure that happens."
The initial emergency order had given large businesses 30-days to implement a vaccination plan, or 60-days for a policy to mask and test workers that didn't want to be vaccinated.
This past week, the various legal challenges were assigned to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the US Department of Justice filed an emergency court motion to get the mandate reinstated.
"It did put businesses into a very difficult situation where they may end up in rough times. But I will tell you this. As an employee, if you're working for a business that has government contracts, just go out and get vaccinated,” Tester said.
“This thing is safe. It's free. It works man. I've had three shots and I meet a lot of people. And I'm sure I've been exposed to it through all the people I've met. And I have yet to get anything. And so, it's pretty cool,” Tester continued. “So, I'd just encourage everybody out there, get the shot. Get it done."
The situation is further complicated in Montana by the Legislature, which approved a bill last spring saying a vaccine mandate is "illegal discrimination."
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen has joined 10 other Republican attorneys general challenging the rule as an intrusion on powers reserved for the states.