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FSC Statement on COVID-19 - September 14, 2021
Vaccine Mandates - What We Know, and What We Don't
On September 9, 2021, in a significant pivot from the prior "attest or test" stance, President Biden announced that all Federal employees will be required to be vaccinated. This requirement allows for exceptions as provided by law, which are primarily exceptions due to disability/health and religious conviction. Here is what else we know at this point:
- Detailed guidance related to the vaccine requirements has not been issued. It SHOULD come out this week, so sit tight until we see that.
- Yesterday, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force published updates to COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Agency Model Safety Principles and also various and new updated FAQs. All of the updates and FAQs are also available here: https://www.saferfederalworkforce.gov/new/. We still expect more guidance both from the Task Force and from USDA.
- The "attest or test" mandate from July has been put on the back burner for now, and we have deferred negotiations regarding testing until we receive further guidance. However, testing is continuing on incidents, both for the pilot programs and for when there are exposures. The pilot programs are on the McFarland and French incidents for all arriving and demobing resources. Other testing sites are being set up, as people are interested in being tested.
- Employees will need to be fully vaccinated (two weeks past last vaccination) by November 22. We do not know what the process will be if employees refuse vaccination.
- NEW: Employees are on duty time to get vaccines for themselves when such vaccination is mandated.
- Employees are still eligible for administrative leave for vaccination of family members, as well as any absences due to side effects from the vaccine.
- Employees who cannot be vaccinated due to medical/disability reasons or due to religious beliefs are eligible for accommodations. We are waiting to see if there will be specific direction on this issue. For those with medical issues, you should request a letter from your doctor stating that you have a medical condition that prevents you from being vaccinated for COVID, so that you can use this medical documentation in a reasonable accommodation request.
- We want to know your concerns about the new vaccine mandates, so here is (yet another) short survey. Please take the survey, so that we can best represent the needs of our bargaining unit. Unions are workplace democracy, and your concerns matter.
For more information about COVID and the government response, see the following sites:
- Executive Orders Pertaining to COVID and Federal Workforce
- Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce | January 20, 2021 - The White House
- Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees | September 09, 2021 - The White House
- Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors | September 09, 2021 - The White House
- Safer Federal Workforce Executive Order and Website: Safer Federal Workforce
- Updated USDA COVID Safety Plan: https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/usda-covid-19-workplace-safety-plan.pdf
- Forest Service COVID information (mostly links to USDA and others). We have not seen the FS updated COVID Safety Plan: Pandemic and Re-entry Resources | FSWeb
- Forest Service-NFFE MOUs (including those regarding COVID): Human Resources Management (HRM): Labor Relations (fs.fed.us)
- NFFE National Statement on COVID vaccination requirements: Executive Order Requires Federal Employees to be Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19 | September 14, 2021 - National Federation of Federal Employees
- Fire-related guidance from interagency groups:
- CDC Page about myths regarding the vaccines: Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC
- A couple resources for good information about new developments in COVID (research studies, looking at the global and national picture, etc):
FSC Statement on COVID-19 - August 19, 2021
Forest Service Bargaining Unit Employees
It has been a challenging week for the leaders in the NFFE Forest Service Council and our Locals because so many people are asking us, "What's the Union doing about this???" While we appreciate this unprecedented interest in union activity, I do want to remind you that "the Union" is employees like you. We work for the Forest Service, we face the same challenges that you do, and we come from all political walks of life, just like the Forest Service population in general. Having a Union in the workplace is only the vehicle to ensure that employee concerns are addressed, but it is the members of the Union (employees like you) who are needed to help drive the vehicle. And we would be so much stronger and able to deal with difficult situations like these if more of you joined us to become union members and leaders.
The Union's primary COVID goal is to keep people safe. We are actively working in keeping us all well-informed, a difficult process as official and credible COVID information is updated regularly.
With that in mind we have two goals with this communication:
- Get your input. Take our Attest-or-Test survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FS-Attest
- Summarizing the overall situation in the attached document (PDF - 157 kB).
We are hearing a number of concerns that feel like fears are ahead of facts, so here are a couple things you should know even if you do not open the attached document:
- You are not required to disclose your vaccination status.
- Routine testing has not started. You do not have to run out and get tested. The only mandated testing that we know of at this time is for resources arriving at the McFarland incident in California, where a pilot program for testing fire resources is occurring.
- Restrictions on travel for unvaccinated/undisclosed employees have not been imposed. All travel is still based on mission critical travel as determined by Regional Foresters, Center Directors, Station Directors, and WO Staff Directors.
I hope this information helps quiet some of the greatest fears, and I hope that you are able to stay safe and sane in these difficult times.