Two Wisconsin manufacturers suing over Biden vaccine mandate

The production floor at Plasticraft. Source: Court documents

Last updated on November 8th, 2021 at 02:50 pm

Two Wisconsin manufacturers based in Darien are among those moving quickly to challenge the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 employees.

Tankcraft Corp. and Plasticraft Corp., through the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, filed a petition for review in the 7th Circuit U.S. Appeals Court of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule used to implement the mandate. The companies are also seeking an emergency stay of the rule while the challenge works its way through the courts.

On Thursday, OSHA set a Jan. 4 deadline for a new emergency temporary standard requiring employers with more than 100 employees to enforce a vaccine mandate or require weekly testing of employees. The measure, which was originally announced by President Joe Biden in September, applies to 84 million workers nationally.

In Wisconsin, the mandate could apply to 1.2 million to 1.7 million workers in the state, including 382,000 to 545,000 in metro Milwaukee.

Steven Fettig, secretary and treasurer of Tankcraft and Plasticraft, says in court documents that the mandate would apply to both companies.

Tankcraft is a metal fabricator that makes products for a number of industries, including transportation, food production, mining, heavy construction, emergency services and defense. The company has around 225 employees working in a 400,000-square-foot facility in Darien.

Plasticraft uses rotational and blow molding processes to make hollow plastic parts for the agribusiness, food production, heavy industry, hospitality, marine, telecommunication and transportation industries. The company operates with around 160 employees from a 300,000-square-foot facility in Darien

In court documents, Fettig says that accounting for turnover the two companies have employed around 600 people in the past 18 months with around 40 testing positive for COVID-19. None of those workers have been hospitalized and there have been no COVID deaths among employees.

“In short, COVID has not presented and does not present a grave danger to our workers,” Fettig wrote.

Contending that COVID isn’t a grave danger is part of the companies’ argument against the new rule. In seeking an emergency stay, they argue the emergency temporary standard of OSHA is it must be “necessary to protect employees from (grave) danger.”

The companies contend that not all employees face the same risk from COVID, a vaccine isn’t “necessary” for those who have had the virus, remote workers or those working outside don’t need the same protection and the rule isn’t addressing an actual “emergency.”

“If OSHA can use this authority to force 80 million American workers to vaccinate or test weekly, then it is hard to imagine what OSHA could not order. American businesses could be ordered to monitor and intervene in virtually any employee behavior that might pose a risk to others, whether directly related to the workplace or not,” the companies’ motion for an emergency stay says.

The companies also argue they would be irreparably harmed by being forced to implement the mandate.

“I know multiple employees who have already indicated that they will not comply with the mandate and will therefore quit if it goes into effect,” Fettig said in a declaration.

The companies included declarations from 12 employees indicating they would either quit or refuse to comply if the mandate went into effect.

The motion for an emergency stay was taken under advisement by the court and OSHA was given until Nov. 12 to respond.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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