Exclusive'Enforcing the mandate will result in loss of personnel'

US diplomats blast Biden vaccine mandate in internal cable

Memo sent by dozens of State Department employees through official dissent channel says policy violates their rights, say unvaxxed are being shunned and bullied by colleagues

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, on Thursday, September 9, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, on Thursday, September 9, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Dozens of diplomats and employees from the United States Department of State sent a cable to the Director of Policy Planning on Thursday protesting the department’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and saying unvaccinated workers were being shunned and bullied by their colleagues, The Times of Israel has learned.

Titled “Dissent Channel: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Medical Freedom,” the internal message argued that the COVID-19 vaccination executive order for all federal employees signed by US President Joe Biden on September 9 violates the US Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the ideals expressed by US Vice President Kamala Harris on the same day.

“On September 9, 2021,” read the cable, “Vice President Harris summarized the importance of these ideals at the White House by stating, ‘When people are able to design their lives in a way that they can determine their own futures, we are a stronger democracy and we are a stronger nation. When people are able to make choices without government interference for themselves — in terms of their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their family, in consultation with whomever they may choose — we are a stronger society.'”

The diplomats, whose names are classified, argued that the mandate has created a “toxic and hostile work environment.”

“Although the Department spends millions of dollars on mandatory training for its employees and other worldwide initiatives to promote diversity, equality, inclusion, anti-discrimination, anti-bullying, and protection of personally identifiable and health information, many of us are experiencing violations of these standards,” they wrote.

“Regrettably, Department leadership has done little to counter the ongoing vitriol and discrimination as the ‘unvaxxed’ are banned from using government facilities, publicly berated by superiors, excluded from work and social events, and subjected to ‘counseling sessions.'”

They told of being called “plague rats” and having colleagues refuse to sit in the same room.

In this file photo taken on August 2, 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AFP)

“The enforcement of this mandate will result in the loss of trained and experienced personnel throughout the federal government,” read the cable. “Consequently, the progress of our mission will be impeded, our national security will be at greater risk, and it will take the Department many years to correct the sudden attrition to meet the great challenges around the globe.”

The signatories — “a diverse group including minorities, immigrants, LGBTQI+, people of faith, those vaccinated against COVID-19 and unvaccinated” — argued that they can continue exercising the same precautions they have for the past 20 months.

“We urge the Department, and the Administration, to abandon this divisive and ineffective mandate and to remedy the damage it has inflicted on the Department’s esprit de corps,” the cable concluded. “This pandemic will pass, but the damage to the State Department’s reputation, effectiveness, and employee morale will not.”

Syringes loaded with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine lie ready for use by a nurse, in Jackson, MS, on September 21, 2021. (AP/Rogelio V. Solis)

Established in 1971, the dissent channel is an official State Department internal messaging service for diplomats and employees to criticize US government policy and be protected from retaliation.

Biden’s vaccination mandates could affect as many as 100 million people, including health care workers, employees of government contractors, and employees in companies with more than 100 workers.

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