Alaska joins lawsuit against vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Alaska's News Source
October 29, 2021

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The state of Alaska joined nine other states on Friday in a lawsuit pushing back against a vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

The suit alleges that President Joe Biden “overstepped his legal authority” by issuing a mandate that employees of contractors who wish to obtain federal contracts or who are currently under federal contracts must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.

“Our laws prohibit this type of action, which is overreaching and inconsistently applied,” Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said in a press release.

Biden’s executive order mandating that employees of federal contractors be vaccinated was issued on Sept. 9 and states that private businesses must have 100% of employees vaccinated before federal contracts could be awarded, or before their current federal contracts would be renewed.

Among the Alaska businesses potentially affected by the vaccine mandate, the Alaska Railroad is a current federal contractor who recently rescinded their company vaccine mandate. That could see the corporation lose millions of dollars in contracts, officials said.

Court filings note that several state agencies are considered federal contractors, too. The state health department, Alaska Department of Corrections and Alaska Department of Public Safety all could be impacted if the mandate is not struck down and all those thousands of state workers are not fully vaccinated.

“At this time, we are still assessing the full impact,” said Aaron Sadler, a spokesperson for the Department of Law. “One of the main problems here is that federal agencies are not being consistent in their application or interpretation of this mandate. The worst-case scenario would be if the contracts are cancelled, causing major financial impacts to all the agencies and to services to the public. We will be pulling more specifics together moving forward.”

The University of Alaska is also noted to be a federal contractor by the court filings. Robbie Graham, a spokesperson for the university’s statewide office, said it employs 6,378 full-time faculty, adjunct, temporary and student employees.

She said the university would be releasing more information next week. Pat Pitney, the interim president of the university, had rejected a request from the chancellor of the University of Fairbanks to vaccinate all staff and in-person students earlier in the month.

Alaska joins Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in the lawsuit. The filing of the lawsuit maintains that the rule for contractors is ambiguous, inconsistent, and would cause confusion and exacerbate ongoing supply chain issues.

“President Biden’s attempt to force vaccinations is, at the root of it, unamerican,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The suit cites U.S. Department of Labor statistics that roughly one-fifth of workers in the U.S. are “workers employed by federal contractors.”

According to data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 60.2% of Alaskans over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated. Across the U.S., 192 million people are fully vaccinated, accounting for 67.7% of residents 12 and older.

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