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IRS workers express mixed views on COVID-19 vaccination mandate

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 14, 2021

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

The outside of a U.S. Internal Revenue Service complex on 12th Street in Ogden, photographed Friday, March 20, 2020.

OGDEN — The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for federal workers issued by President Joe Biden is generating mixed reviews from Internal Revenue Service employees, a big chunk of the workforce in the Ogden area.

“IRS employees, just like the general public, have mixed views. We have heard from some employees who do not believe vaccination should be a condition of employment. We have heard from others who believe the workplace will be safer knowing all of their coworkers are vaccinated,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, or NTEU, said in a statement to the Standard-Examiner.

Biden issued the vaccination mandate last Friday.

“I have determined that ensuring the health and safety of the federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service requires immediate action to protect the federal workforce and individuals interacting with the federal workforce,” the mandate reads. “It is essential that federal employees take all available steps to protect themselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to their co-workers and members of the public.”

The IRS operates out of several locations in the Ogden area and employs around 5,000 people, making it one of the largest employers in Weber County. The U.S. Forest Service and other agencies also have a notable presence here.

A rep from the local NTEU chapter, Chapter 67, referred comment to national union officials. Whatever the case, news of the mandate sparked debate on the Chapter 67 Facebook page, mainly from foes of the requirement.

“My body my choice!!!! I do not agree!!! The union needs to fight this!!!” wrote one poster. Someone else expressed concern that firing would be the response for those who don’t get shots, though such details haven’t been spelled out.

The NTEU expects the deadline for full vaccination for federal workers will be Nov. 22, a little more than two months away. The union referred questions about the number of IRS workers already vaccinated to the agency. The agency didn’t immediately respond to a query seeking comment as of late Monday afternoon.

The NTEU understands that other COVID-19 safety rules will stay in effect as long as transmission rates stay high in locales where IRS offices are located. “Hopefully higher vaccination rates will cause the number of COVID cases to drop,” Reardon said.

Chad Hooper, executive director of the Professional Managers Association, which represents IRS managers, said the mandate is “a welcome departure” from the Biden administration’s “unrealized plan to test unvaccinated employees.”

Hooper also expressed a measure of acceptance for the mandate, which cites findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, that vaccination is the best way to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and prevent infection. The mandate also notes that the Federal Drug Administration has authorized use of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“As an association representing IRS leaders, it is our view that the federal workforce should defer to the expertise of our peers across government. As we would expect our colleagues at the CDC and FDA to trust our tax expertise, so too we expect the IRS workforce to trust their medical expertise,” he said in a statement.

The NTEU said several issues on how the mandate will be implemented have to be sorted, including the sort of accommodations to be made for employees “who are medically unable to be vaccinated or who have religious objections.”

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