On September 21, 2021, FMA held a forum to allow FMA members to ask questions and state their views on President Biden's Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate. The questions and concerns that FMA was unable to answer are being forwarded to the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force with a request for answers and guidance. As more details and guidance are received, that information will be passed along to all FMA members. A transcript of FMA National President Craig Carter's opening statement, as well as a recording of the event, can be found below.
Correction: During the forum, it was incorrectly stated that federal employees who are terminated lose access to accumulated retirement benefits. This statement was in error. Federal employees who are terminated do not, as a general rule, lose their accumulated retirement benefits.
Click on the above video to watch the full 83-minute FMA Member Forum: Executive Order on Vaccine Mandate
"FMA is deeply concerned about the health and safety of our workforce. We want to be able to perform our duties in a healthy atmosphere without the added stress of becoming ill. We are also very concerned about being able to provide the services that our nation depends on to operate and for national security. A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation stated that 20% of the American people will refuse any vaccine regardless of the ramifications such as the possibility of loss of employment over such refusal. With 2.1 million federal workers, if you take those national averages, that means we may be facing the possibility of losing 400,000 public servants. Most government agencies are already understaffed and operating on insufficient funds. Now add a possible government shutdown that could continue sometime into the next fiscal year and we can expect chaos within the federal workforce.
"The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force was established by Executive Order (EO) 13991. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force is led by the White House COVID-19 Response Team, the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Task Force members include: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the United States Secret Service (USSS).FMA has attended every briefing from the task force. The briefings started with vaccine rates, positivity rates, Restriction of Movements (ROM’s) and mask mandates. A few months ago the way forward was to start testing non-vaccinated federal employees at least once weekly. Before that mandate became effective the new Executive Order 14043 was extended to mandate vaccines for all federal employees. Like the original testing mandate, the vaccination mandate has not been issued with much guidance. The new EO states that progressive disciplinary action up to termination will be taken on any federal employee who refuses the vaccine without a medical or religious exemption. I have been very vocal during these briefings over FMA’s concerns and asking for much needed guidance on the latest mandate, but have not yet received the requested information.
"Our government agencies and commands will now be dealing with coordinating vaccinations internally and through third parties while continuing to perform our daily functions in our normal work capacities. This is already a stressful time for our workforce and nation and this adds to the situation. The disciplinary process will take a toll on us all, from the Human Resource Departments, the bargaining units and the rest of us who may have to perform the duties of the public servants who have been displaced during this disciplinary process. All while some of our federal brothers and sisters, family members and others who are workmates and friends may be terminated from government service for not complying with this mandate.
"I have been interviewed twice on the pandemic concerning first the mandated testing with Nicole Ogrysko from Federal News Network and then by Natalie Alms from Federal Computer Week on the vaccination mandate. Todd Wells, our Executive Director was interviewed by Lisa Rein from the Washington Post. We have voiced our concerns throughout the Taskforce briefings and during our interviews while not specifically taking a stance on any mandate. To read any of these interviews or see other important information on this subject please visit Fedmanagers.org.
FMA has been in existence and advocating for feds for more than a century. One of the most important ways we’ve stayed relevant and remained the largest and most influential organization advocating for federal managers is the fact that we’re a consensus building organization. Pretty much every fed can agree that they want us working to ensure fair pay and good benefits. Every one of our members agrees that it’s important we do everything we can to prevent government shutdowns, and to work hard to advocate for every one of our issue briefs.
"Naturally, there are issues where our membership is deeply split, and where the feelings behind that split are incredibly strong. This is one such issue. The members of our executive board have a diversity of personal views, creeds, and convictions. But on this, we were united. We cannot in good conscience take a stance – whether in favor of the vaccine mandate, or opposed to it. To do so would deeply split the Federal Managers Association, and put around half of our members in the position of being part of an organization that is championing something that they are truly, passionately against. I respect your passion, and your beliefs. No matter what they are. But we have a duty and a responsibility to represent you all. To declare a position on either side of this divide would be to cripple our ability to advocate for you in all the other areas that you care about.
"Most federal employees have continued to perform their daily functions throughout this pandemic, whether it be by telework or by reporting onsite. Some jobs couldn’t be completed by telework so we have continually reported to our installations. Early on we reported without masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning solutions because of shortages of these items. The four public shipyards and other agencies helped with these shortages by manufacturing face masks and shields, hand sanitizers and other cleaning solutions to help keep our workforce safe. But we didn’t stop there. We also fabricated all the mentioned items and distributed them to other government agencies and health care workers. Federal managers met the challenges of the pandemic and kept our federal government effective and serving America.
"FMA has heard from a number of members about their anger about the vaccine mandate, and who feel that FMA has not done enough to stop the mandate from being put in place. Tonight, the FMA Executive Board, FMA staff, and I want to hear your concerns, answer any questions we can, and for those questions we cannot answer, do our best to obtain and share more information."