The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) – the largest union for Federal employees – is pushing for Federal workers to have the same extended deadline as Federal government contractors to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

Last week, the White House pushed the vaccine deadline for Federal contractors until January 4. AFGE National President Everett Kelley wrote a November 9 letter to the Biden administration asking it to do the same for Federal workers.

“This double standard has caused confusion and distress among Federal employees due to disparate treatment and incongruent deadlines for people who perform the government’s work in the same settings,” Kelley wrote in the letter to Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management; and Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator.

“It is inexcusable that contractors are being given the entire holiday season to meet the mandates, while Federal employees continue to be subject to the November 22 deadline. The effect upon morale of Federal employees being subject to possible discipline at this time of the year cannot be overstated,” Kelley wrote.

The letter notes that AFGE shares the Biden administration’s goal of ending the pandemic and appreciates the vaccine’s key role in this effort. However, Kelley said setting different vaccination deadlines for Federal employees and contractors “is both harmful to morale and substantively unjustified.”

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Federal workers are facing an upcoming deadline of November 22 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions for religious and medical accommodations.

In a press briefing on November 9, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration moved forward with vaccine mandates “to make sure that we get to a place that we can get out of this pandemic.”

“These are policies that are protecting workforces and avoiding disruptions related to employees getting sick with COVID… expanding the workforce, and saving lives,” Jean-Pierre said. “That’s the business that we’re in.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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