USPS requests temporary waiver from Biden vaccine mandate, warns of supply chain disruption
Deputy Postmaster General says the vaccine requirement or testing is 'likely to result in the loss of many employees'
The U.S. Postal Service is requesting a temporary waiver from President Biden's employer vaccine mandate, warning in a letter sent to federal labor officials that mandates or weekly testing measures could impact the agency's ability to operate.
Deputy Postmaster General Douglas A. Tulino, who formerly served as the agency's chief human resources officer, sent a letter dated Jan. 4 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and expressed his concerns over the impact of the mandate and requiring employees to present weekly negative tests.
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In the letter obtained by Fox News, Tulino said a vaccine-or-test mandate as outlined by the emergency temporary standard "is likely to result in the loss of many employees — either by employees leaving or being disciplined – particularly given the higher level of temporary employees at this time of year."
"We respectfully suggest that the nation cannot afford the additional potential substantial harm that would be engendered if the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail and packages is significantly negatively impacted," Tulino wrote in the letter.
"Given our essential role to the nation, particularly during these challenging times, we believe that it is critical to avoid disruption to our vital operations," Tulino added. "For that reason, we are seeking temporary relief from the ETS and maintenance of the status quo on an interim basis."
USPS requested that OSHA extend the compliance deadlines for the mandate by 120 days, as well as suspend the Postal Service’s obligations under the mandate until courts provide final ruling on the legality of the vaccine requirement.
The mandate is set to take effect on Jan. 10, but OSHA has stated it will not issue citations for violations until Feb. 9. The USPS remains uncertain that it will be in compliance by those dates.
Tulino also stated in the letter that "while the legal validity of the ETS is currently being challenged in federal court, the Postal Service is taking several steps to ensure it can fully comply with the requirements of the ETS, as quickly as possible, assuming the ETS is upheld."
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"It is the timing that is particularly problematic," Tulino wrote. "While the impact to our service could be devastating at any time of year, requiring the Postal Service to absorb what could inevitably be a dramatic loss of employees at a time when the labor market is extremely tight and in the middle of the Postal Service’s Peak Season would have a potentially catastrophic impact on our ability to provide service to the American public when demand is at its highest."
"The Postal Service is seeking temporary relief because it wants to ensure that its ability to deliver mail and packages is not hindered amid the current disruptions in the nation’s supply chain," Postal Service spokeswoman Darlene Casey said in an emailed statement to Fox News. "In addition, the Postal Service wants to adopt policies and procedures that comply with the [OSHA standard] while also fulfilling the organization’s other legal obligations."
"The Postal Service will continue to enforce the existing extensive COVID-19 mitigation program to protect our employees and customers nationwide against the effects of COVID-19," Casey added.
The White House and OSHA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.