State Claims Business Groups Involved In Permanent Mask Mandates They Strongly Oppose
Workplace regulators want masks, health monitoring, social distancing and remote work going forward
Michigan’s workplace regulators are moving forward with plans to make COVID-19 emergency workplace rules — mandatory masking, health monitoring, social distancing, remote work — a permanent feature of everyday life in the state regardless of the course the pandemic takes. The state claims that a variety of business groups were involved in developing the rules, but most of these groups are strongly against what is being put into place.
The rules proposed by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration would extend indefinitely emergency rules set to expire in October. MIOSHA says it wants to have a permanent standard in place once the current pandemic mandates expire.
Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration Director Bart Pickelman said in a statement that formal rules “will preserve requirements to mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Once established, the . . . rules will continue to accommodate a smooth transition back to normal while protecting workplace safety and health of employees until such time as these provisions are no longer necessary.”
In its request for rulemaking, MIOSHA claimed the following groups were involved in what was developed: Associated General Contractors, Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, National Electrical Contractors Association, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Retailers Association, Michigan Manufacturers Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield. But four of the seven groups that responded to a request for comment said they were adamantly opposed to permanent COVID rules, describing them as a costly job killer that is both unscientific and unnecessary.
Michigan Chamber of Commerce Vice President Wendy Block said that enacting permanent rules to address a crisis that has already begun to dissipate will place an enormous burden on employers, employees and their customers, and it will undermine the state’s ability to compete economically.
Block, who served on a business/labor advisory committee that reviewed the rules, said recommendations to tie their enforcement to CDC guidelines or use time limits were rejected.
Permanent rules, she said, “could very quickly come into conflict with scientific recommendations” from national and state health agencies, “with no requirement that they ever go away.”
Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, also served on the committee. He said that under permanent rules, bars and restaurants would be in the untenable position of forcing customers to mask and socially distance even after the customers themselves have been told that doing so is no longer necessary.
“It will literally force the closure of any place where people congregate to play darts, play pool or use a dance floor,” Ellis said.
Jimmy Greene, CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors Michigan and a technical advisor to the review committee, said the outcome was predetermined.
“It reminded me of when my parents told me what they were going to do, and then asked me for my opinion. They already knew they were going to do it,” Greene said.
Andrew Smith, legal counsel to the Michigan Nurses Association, identified by Block as a spokesman for organized labor on the advisory committee, declined to comment on union support for the permanent COVID rule proposal.
MIOSHA has set a public hearing on the rules for May 26 where, by law, it has to take public comments about the proposed rules. When a proposed final version is adopted, it will be presented to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which can delay, but not prevent a move to implement the rules.
MIOSHA also included this in its statement:
MIOSHA Permanent Rules:
- MIOSHA has a duty to protect Michigan workers. While we all hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will be behind us in the fall, today case counts are high across the state and new variants are still emerging.
- MIOSHA's emergency rules are currently providing employers and employees with the guidance and certainty they need to stay safe. Starting the process of creating permanent rules is a tool the agency has to make, to be sure it can continue to keep everyone safe if those rules are needed.
- As vaccination continues to increase, and conditions continue to change, we are hopeful that we are aligned and flexible and potentially in a position to rescind all or parts of the rules.
MIOSHA Advisory Rules Committee
- MIOSHA used the standard advisory committee process which they utilize for most, if not all, of the standards they propose or update.
- The Committee met several times between March 16 and April 6 to review the draft permanent rule.
- These committees use management, labor, and technical advisors to advise MIOSHA on potential rules. The process included reaching agreement on several recommendations that MIOSHA incorporated into the draft submitted to MOAHR.
- As an advisory committee, MIOSHA is not obligated to incorporate the recommendations, but utilizes this process to ensure interested parties the opportunity to provide input and feedback.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.