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Workers Are People, Not Mice

The world is a bit hysterical these days, there is a palatable fear about the virus and public health. But we must be careful to prevent fear from destroying freedom. People should not be forced into medical decisions they are not comfortable with—especially in an experimental setting.

The Declaration of Independence states “…all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…” The phrase is well known and mostly-honored in America. The next phrase is equally compelling, “…That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, …” Government absolutely has the charge to protect individual rights.

The Legislature should convene immediately to consider legislation for protecting worker rights in making medical decisions for themselves without discrimination or threats of losing their jobs, and for respecting and protecting the privacy of workers from intrusion by their employers. Understandably, hospitals and businesses want safe work environments, but it is wrong for hospitals and other employers to require the COVID vaccine and/or discriminate against the unvaccinated for several reasons.

  1. Businesses asking for proof of vaccination are violating the privacy rights of workers about their medical care and choices. We already prohibit employers from asking other medical questions—understandably, you can’t ask if a woman is on birth control.
  2. The COVID vaccine is still considered “experimental” by the FDA and the government already exempted vaccine suppliers from liability for harms. Workers should not be subjects for experimental vaccines.
  3. It’s regressive bargaining for an employer to suddenly require employees undergo an invasive medical procedure or be terminated. (Note: At least one of the hospitals in question assured their employees as recently as December 2020, that the COVID vaccine would not be required. No doubt some employees made long term employment decisions based in part on that assurance.)
  4. Hospitals requiring the vaccine are not “private businesses” in any true sense of the term. The hospitals already enjoy special sales tax and property tax exemptions from Idaho. They receive hundreds of millions of dollars in government program payments via Medicaid and Medicare from State and Federal sources and have contracts with the state of Idaho. With all these dependencies on the state, the state certainly has the right and the responsibility to set parameters for worker relations.
  5. Consider an email I got from a concerned worker/mother: An Idaho woman who helps support her family by working at a hospital for many years is 7 months pregnant, and she is unsure about injecting an experimental vaccine while her baby is on the way. She loves her job, and she loves her soon-to-be-born little baby. Is it ok for the hospital to require this young mother to put herself and her unborn baby at risk just to keep her job? (She is in tears over the “Sophie’s choice” the hospital forces on her.)

Given these concerns and the experimental status of the vaccines, it’s imperative the legislature returns from recess to consider potential solutions regarding worker rights and privacy. Here are a few proposals worth considering:

  1. Businesses may require vaccinations and preventions (flu shots, etc.), but may not require experimental medical procedures.
  2. Businesses requiring vaccinations must accept full liability for damages/harm caused by the vaccines (remember vaccine providers are shielded from liability).
  3. Offer an incentive for businesses who don’t discriminate or require vaccines (lower corporate tax rate of 4%). It’s not force, but a choice for firms.
  4. Remove tax exempt status or other tax breaks from hospitals/businesses choosing to require vaccines or who discriminate against employees based on vaccination status.
  5. Prohibit the state from contracting with businesses or entities requiring vaccines.
  6. Prohibit businesses or other entities from requiring vaccinations (or proof) as a condition for employment, promotion, or other treatment.

We should discuss any and all proposals. We can reach a solution while respecting individual and business rights and privacy. We all want safety, but we want to do it with as minimal intrusion as possible—always remembering government was instituted primarily to protect individual rights and privacy.

 

Rep. Ron Nate
Idaho House, District 34-B
Madison & Bonneville Counties
208-403-3609

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