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Group Health Plans Must Cover OTC COVID-19 Test Kits

Group Health Plans Must Cover OTC COVID-19 Test Kits

The Biden Administration announced that effective January 15, 2022, insurance companies and group health plans will be required to provide expanded coverage of at-home/over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests. The announcement is designed to increase access to free testing.

The legal authority for the announcement comes from joint guidance issued by the Departments of Labor, HHS, and the Treasury (the “Departments”) on the implementation of statutory requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, and the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) itself (as an ACA “preventive care” benefit). Since March 2020, the FFCRA has required group health plans to provide “first-dollar” coverage of certain COVID-19 related testing for the duration of the “public health emergency” (which has been continuously extended by HHS in 90-day periods). Section 6001(c) of the FFCRA authorizes the Departments to implement the requirements of section 6001 through sub-regulatory guidance, program, instruction, or otherwise.

The announcement from the White House was accompanied by the FAQs (sub-regulatory guidance) issued by the Departments.

Note that group health plans were already required by the FFCRA to cover at-home COVID testing when ordered by a physician, so this guidance simply removes the requirement that the test be ordered by a physician. However, as described in the FAQs, group health plans are permitted to limit coverage to no more than eight tests per individual per month and limit reimbursement to no more than $12 per test.

Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

IBEW Local 1900 Brothers & Sisters - Take Action: Protect Voting Rights

IBEW Local 1900 Brothers & Sisters,

Subject: Take Action: Protect Voting Rights

American democracy is under threat today. To save it, we need democracy in the U.S. Senate.

That means passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.​

It shouldn’t be this hard to pass laws that help people. It should be a simple 50-vote majority, but an outdated procedure in the U.S. Senate called the filibuster is stopping us.

The choice is clear: Sideline the filibuster, not the hopes, aspirations and representation of America’s people.

Use the form to sign the pledge to say you’ll protect voting rights.

Can you join me and take action? Click here:

In Solidarity,

Jerry R. Williford Jr.
IBEW Local 1900
President/Business Manager/Financial Secretary

US Supreme Court Blocks OSHA's Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers

Good morning:

You are aware of the US Supreme Court decisions rendered yesterday blocking OSHA's mandate pertaining to employers with 100 or more employees and allowing the mandate for health care workers. Below is an in-depth review of both cases from an article in the New York Times.

Wishing you a delightful weekend as you enjoy your activities and relax.

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers, dealing a blow to a key element of the White House’s plan to address the pandemic as coronavirus cases resulting from the Omicron variant are on the rise.

But in a modest victory for President Biden, the court allowed a more limited mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated.

The vote in the employer mandate case was 6 to 3, with the liberal justices in dissent. The vote in the health care case was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh joining the liberal justices to form a majority.

The employer decision undercut one of President Biden’s most significant attempts to tame the virus and left the country with a patchwork of state laws and policies, largely leaving companies and businesses on their own.

The president welcomed the ruling in his favor, saying in a statement that it would save the lives of health care workers and patients. But he said he was disappointed that the court had overturned the employer mandate, which he said was “grounded squarely in both science and the law.” In both the employer and health worker cases, the justices explored whether Congress had authorized the executive branch to take sweeping actions to address the health care crisis.

The unsigned majority opinion in the employer case said a statute on workplace hazards did not justify a mandate that would have required more than 80 million workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or to wear masks and be tested weekly. It also stressed the novelty and sweep of the mandate issued by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, saying Congress had not authorized the agency to act and describing its response as “a blunt instrument.”

The mandate “draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to Covid-19,” the majority opinion said, adding that it was “a significant encroachment into the lives — and health — of a vast number of employees.” But the opinion said more tailored regulations may be lawful given that “most lifeguards and linemen face the same regulations as do medics and meatpackers.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan expressed incredulity at the court’s willingness to frustrate “the federal government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that Covid-19 poses to our nation’s workers.”

Regulating safety in the workplace, the three dissenting justices wrote, is precisely what OSHA is commanded to do. They agreed that the key issue in the case was that of institutional competence to address the health care crisis.

“Underlying everything else in this dispute,” they wrote, “is a single, simple question: Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from Covid-19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the president authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?”

In an unsigned opinion in the case, Biden v. Missouri, No. 21A240, the majority wrote that the health care mandate issued by the secretary of health and human services “falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him.”

The governing statute gives the secretary the general power to issue regulations to ensure the “efficient administration” of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and parts of the statute concerning various kinds of facilities generally also authorize the secretary to impose requirements to protect the health and safety of patients.

The majority wrote that the mandate “fits neatly within the language of the statute. "The majority added that facilities that receive money from the Medicare and Medicaid programs must comply with many federal health and safety requirements.

“All this is perhaps why health care workers and public health organizations overwhelmingly support the secretary’s rule,” the majority wrote. “Indeed, their support suggests that a vaccination requirement under these circumstances is a straightforward and predictable example of the ‘health and safety’ regulations that Congress has authorized the secretary to impose.”

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, wrote that “scattered provisions” in the statute did not justify the mandate.

Without “exceedingly clear” congressional authorization, Justice Thomas wrote, the federal government should not be allowed to force health care workers “to choose between losing their livelihoods and acquiescing to a vaccine they have rejected for months.”

“These cases are not about the efficacy or importance of Covid-19 vaccines,” he wrote. “They are only about whether” the agency “has the statutory authority to force health care workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld state vaccine mandates in a variety of settings against constitutional challenges. The two cases decided on Thursday concerned a different question, that of whether Congress has authorized the executive branch to institute the requirements.

The majority opinion in the case on health care workers seemed to try to harmonize the two rulings.

“The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it,” the opinion said. “At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.”

Supreme Court to Consider Arguments on the OSHA COVID-19 ETS

Supreme Court to Consider Arguments on the OSHA COVID-19 ETS

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled expedited arguments on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision to lift the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).

The ETS mandated COVID-19 vaccination or voluntary vaccinations with testing and masking for unvaccinated employees for employers with at least 100 employees. The Court will hear oral arguments from petitioners and OSHA on January 7, 2022, three days before OSHA will begin enforcement efforts.

Judge Jane B. Stanch authored the Sixth Circuit decision to lift the stay. She asserted that OSHA “must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve” such as a spreading virus with emerging variants. OSHA followed the Sixth Circuit decision with an announcement that it will not issue citations for noncompliance with the ETS before January 10, 2022. The agency also stated it will exercise its discretion and not issue citations for noncompliance with testing requirements under the ETS before February 9, 2022, provided an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard. The agency has also given OSHA State Plans until January 7, 2022, to announce their intentions on adoption of the ETS and move forward with adoption by January 24, 2022.

Multiple parties, including 27 states, filed emergency motions with the Supreme Court to block enforcement efforts following the Sixth Circuit decision. They emphasized the irreparable harm they will suffer in having to implement the ETS, citing labor shortages, the unavailability of tests, and the unintended consequence of having to lay off vaccinated workers to absorb the costs of compliance. In addition to the challengers’ concerns about economic viability of their businesses, they argued their likelihood of success in enjoining the standard on the merits and balance of equities weigh in favor of a stay. These petitioners also have asked the Supreme Court for a rare grant of their requested alternative relief: granting review before judgment by the lower court and deciding the legality of the OSHA ETS on the merits. They claim this is appropriate and necessary, given the importance of the issues, for the high court to weigh in on questions about the structure of government and OSHA’s authority over the economy. They argue that the Supreme Court must act now because, given the six-month life of an ETS, the case could become moot by the time the Court has the opportunity to review the issues if the case progresses normally.

Friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed by the Washington Legal Foundation and three former OSHA assistant secretaries of labor on both sides of the issue. The Washington Legal Foundation, a non-profit public interest law firm and policy center, argues the ETS will have dire effects on the economy, which already is suffering from supply chain issues and labor shortages, as well as OSHA’s failure to follow proper notice and comment rulemaking for 21 months. The former OSHA officials weighing in are Gerard Scannell (under George W. Bush), Charles Feddress (under Bill Clinton), and Dr. David Michaels (under Barack Obama). They argue the Court should deny the stay of the OSHA ETS and that OSHA is well within its authority to issue the ETS.

The emergency appeals were assigned initially to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who directed OSHA to provide briefs in support of its argument by December 30, 2021. Justice Kavanaugh then referred the matter to the full Court for review. In addition, the Court will hear oral arguments on a stay of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Vaccine Mandate for covered providers who participate in the Medicare and Medicaid government programs and others covered by the CMS Vaccine Mandate.

The Sixth Circuit has yet to hear, let alone to decide, the case on the merits, and has not considered the arguments of the petitioners, including arguments over whether the ETS overrides state or local laws due to federal preemption. Meanwhile, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia have enacted measures that would restrict or impact vaccination requirements.

2022 Pepco Contract Negotiation Employee Survey

To All IBEW Local 1900 Pepco Members:

Our 2022 Pepco contract negotiations are fast approaching.

The 2022 Pepco Contract Negotiation Employee Survey is being mailed to your homes.

Please take the time to tell IBEW Local 1900 what is important to you with the upcoming contract negotiations.

If you have any questions, contact IBEW Local 1900 at 301-322-6030.

Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

Observed Thanksgiving Holidays for GenOn, Pepco and WGL (Frederick)

Observed Thanksgiving Holidays for GenOn, Pepco and WGL (Frederick)

All three companies that IBEW Local 1900 represents will observe Thanksgiving Day Thursday November 25th and the Day After Thanksgiving Friday November 26th as their observed company holidays.

If you have any questions regarding the Thanksgiving holidays, please refer to your Collective Bargaining Agreement or feel free to contact one of our Union stewards or IBEW Local 1900 directly at (301) 322-6030.


Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

GenOn Benefits Annual Enrollment

GenOn Benefits Annual Enrollment

Benefits Annual Enrollment began, Monday, October 25th and runs through Friday, November 5th. Your benefit elections will be in effect beginning January 1, 2022. Go to to enroll:

* Review your 2021 elections and make any updates to your benefits for 2022. If this is your first visit to the Benefits Center enrollment site, you will need to register and create a new username and password.

* Declare your tobacco status. If you use tobacco, tobacco products, or don’t answer this question, you will pay more for your medical benefits.

* Ensure you are covering eligible dependents. Children can be covered up to age 26. There is a spousal surcharge for enrolling in the $30 Copay Plan when spouses are eligible for coverage through their own employers. This surcharge may not pertain to certain unions, refer to your collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

* Determine your contributions to discretionary accounts. The Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DSA) all offer tax savings. The enrollment guides help you walk through the decision-making process of which options may be right for you. Your specific enrollment guide can be found on the GenOn Benefits Center website under “Resources.”

* Summary of Benefits Coverage. The 2022 Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) can also be found on the GenOn Benefits Center’s website. The SBC is an easy-to-read summary that compares cost and coverage between health plans. You can compare health care options based on price, benefits, and other features that may be important to you and your family.

Please feel free to reach out to a GenOn Benefits Service Center representative for information or assistance. Contact information is below.

Phone: Benefits Service Center at 833-539-4600



Why not give your other benefits an annual checkup?

Since you are in the mindset, this is a perfect time to review your other accounts to make sure they are up to date. Contact information for all plan providers is available in the benefits enrollment guide.

Life Insurance: Review to ensure your beneficiaries are current.
401(k) account: Make sure you are deducting your desired pre-tax amounts and review your designated beneficiaries.

Pepco Open Enrollment is November 4th – 17th, 2021.

Pepco Open Enrollment is November 4th – 17th, 2021.

Open enrollment information has been mailed to employees.

It’s time to start considering your benefit needs for 2022. Please read the newsletter for reminders and information about important changes.

You need to act only if you want to make changes to your benefit coverage options, or if you want to contribute to a health care or dependent care flexible spending account or to a health savings account for 2022, because those elections do not carry forward.

If you need any additional information call 1-877-7EXELON (1-877-739-3566)

Vaccine Mandates - Legal Issues

Vaccine Mandates – Legal Issues

Q: Can an employer require vaccines as a condition of employment?

A: Yes. Federal law does not prohibit employers from mandating vaccines as a condition of employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that mandates do not violate either the Americans with Disabilities Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, although both of those laws require employers to provide certain exceptions. A few states bar vaccine mandates, so check your state law. However, with respect to federal contractors, those laws may be preempted by the President’s Executive Orders discussed below.

Q: What are the exceptions?

A: Employees who cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons or who have sincerely held religious objections to the vaccine may seek an accommodation from the mandate. Employers are to evaluate each request for an exemption and, working with the employee, determine whether there is an accommodation that would permit the employee to continue to perform the job in a manner that does not impose an undue hardship on the employer or pose a “direct threat” to the health of the employee or others in the workplace.

Q: Doesn’t the employer have to bargain with the union?

A: As a general matter, requiring vaccines as a condition of employment is a mandatory subject of bargaining. However, whether your employer can implement a mandate without bargaining depends on the language in your collective bargaining agreement and whether the mandate is required by law (for example, under the Executive Orders described below).
Even if the union cannot bargain over the decision to require vaccines, it can
bargain over the effects of that decision – that is, how the mandate will be implemented.

Q: If the union can’t bargain over the mandate, what can it bargain over?

A: There are many issues about how the mandate will be implemented, including:
• How the exceptions will be determined
• The status of employees who refuse the vaccine
• Compensation for time spent getting the vaccine
• Paid leave for employees who react to the vaccine
• How the employer will verify vaccination
• Testing as an alternative (and if so, who pays for time/expense)
Even the Executive Orders requiring vaccines leave many implementation issues unanswered and therefore open to bargaining.

Q: What is in President Biden’s Executive Orders?

A: The President issued three Executive Orders regarding workplace vaccinations:
• Federal employees:
* All Federal employees must be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021.
* There are medical/religious exceptions for employees who can be
• Federal contractors and their subcontractors:
* Applies to contracts entered into, extended, or revised after November 14,2021.
* All employees working on or in connection with a covered contract must be vaccinated by December 8, 2021. (“In connection” with a contract means performing work necessary for the performance of the contract.)
* With some exceptions, the Executive Order also applies to a covered
contractor’s employees who are not working on the covered contract but are in the contractor’s workplace.
* There are medical/religious exceptions for employees who can be accommodated.

• OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)
* Directed OSHA to issue an ETS covering employers with 100 or more employees, requiring vaccines or testing for employers.

Q: Isn’t it unconstitutional for the government to mandate vaccines?

A: No, as early as 1905, the Supreme Court held in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that the government may mandate vaccines. In that case, the Court rejected a challenge to a law requiring all residents to be vaccinated against smallpox. The Court held that although individuals have a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in personal autonomy, that right is outweighed by the state’s interest protecting the public.

Q: Doesn’t it violate HIPPAA to ask me about my vaccination status?

A: No. First, HIPPAA does not apply to how your employer handles medical information. It only prevents medical providers from disclosing patient information. The ADA does, however, limit and impose confidentiality requirements on the medical information your employer can obtain. According to the EEOC, the ADA permits your employer to ask your vaccine status. However, the employer cannot ask why you are not vaccinated, and the employer must treat any documentation confidentially.
Some states, however, have prohibited inquiring about vaccine status, so check your state law.

Q: Is it legal to require employees to get vaccines that only have Emergency Use authorization (EUA)?

A: Yes. The vaccines’ EUA status does not bar public or private entities from requiring vaccines as a condition of employment. Language in the statute authorizing EUA suggested that the people getting the vaccines must be told it is optional, but the courts have made clear this refers to information the healthcare providers must give when administering the vaccines. And, the courts have said, even under a mandate, the vaccines are optional since employees always have the choice to decline the vaccine and seek employment elsewhere.
In any event, one of the three vaccines available in the United States is now fully licensed, and it is expected the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon fully license the other two as well.

Q: Don’t I get greater legal protections with the fully-licensed vaccines?

A: No. In announcing its approval of the Pfizer vaccine, the FDA stated that the vaccine with EUA and the full-licensed vaccine were identical in their composition, safety and effectiveness, but that they were “legally distinct.” The FDA has since made clear this meant that the EUA was approved for individuals ages 12 and up, while the licensed vaccine had been approved for individuals 16 and older, and that the vaccines may have been manufactured in different approved facilities.

Q: If I am terminated for refusing to get vaccinated, can I collect unemployment insurance?

A: That’s a question of state law. Many states either deny or delay benefits to employees terminated “for cause.”

Q: If I have an adverse reaction to the vaccine, can I collect workers comp?

A: Again, this is a question of state law. However, if you suffer an injury as a result of an employer-mandated vaccination, this would be covered as a work-related injury. Some states have issued guidelines addressing Covid-related coverage. Additionally, as stated above, compensation for time off for anyone who suffers an adverse reaction to the vaccine is something the union can negotiate through effects bargaining.

Q: What can the union do about all this?

A: So far, every court that has considered employer mandates has found them lawful, although in a few cases, individuals have successfully pursued their rights to exceptions. However, as explained above, the union can demand bargaining. If the employer is not legally required to mandate vaccines, it may be possible to bargain over the decision to require them, depending on the language of your collective bargaining agreement. But if the agreement, for example, allows the employer to implement reasonable safety rules or otherwise grants the employer the right to implement new rules, current NLRB law makes it unlikely that the union will be
able to bargain over the decision to require the vaccine. Even if it cannot bargain over the decision, the union can bargain over its effects, i.e., its implementation

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative Organizing Campaign

IBEW Local 1900 Sisters and Brothers,

For the past couple of months, the IBEW Organizing Committee and Local 1900 have been organizing the employees of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative in Virginia.

IBEW Local 1900 is thrilled to inform you that a petition had been filed today, August 13, 2021, with the National Labor Relation Board. (NRLB) to organize Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative. As with any election, it is important that employees have the right to have their their voices heard. This election will be conducted by agents of the National Labor Relation Board. (NRLB)

A union contract is the only way to guarantee that you will always have a seat at the table.

As we move forward, IBEW Local 1900 will keep our website updated with our Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative organizing efforts.

Please contact the Union office if you have any questions.

In Solidarity,

Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager, Financial Secretary
IBEW Local Union 1900

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