FIRST ON FOX: Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn rolled out a measure Tuesday that would protect essential workers from being fired due to federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, making them exempt from President Biden’s executive order, amid layoffs and resignations from workers across different industries due to their unwillingness to receive a coronavirus vaccine.
The legislation, titled “Keeping Our COVID-19 Heroes Employed Act,” is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Bill Haggerty of Tennessee, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Mike Braun of Indiana, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
“Our essential workers are true heroes,” Blackburn told Fox News. “For over 18 months, essential workers showed up to serve and protect their communities. Businesses across the country are desperate for workers and we are in the midst of a supply chain crisis. There are more than 10.4 million open jobs across the country, and now President Biden wants to fire even more workers. Getting vaccinated is a choice that should be made between a patient and their doctor. No one should be forced by Joe Biden to be fired or get jabbed.”
The bill would “provide for an exemption” for “all essential workers” from COVID vaccine requirements imposed by the federal government, a public or private federal contractor, a private entity receiving federal funds, or a public entity receiving funding under the coronavirus CARES Act.
The bill defines an essential worker as an individual who a “relevant State, Indian Tribe, or territory deemed essential during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic;” or “who was exempt from any restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic imposed by a relevant State, Indian Tribe, or territory.”
Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Texas Unconstitutional Abortion Ban and the Role of the Shadow Docket", in Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, September 29, 2021. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS (Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS)
The legislation was endorsed by a number of worker groups – including the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Border Patrol Council, the president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, among others.
The bill comes after President Biden signed an executive order over the summer requiring that all workers in the executive branch be vaccinated against COVID-19. Biden also signed an order to require businesses with more than 100 workers to mandate coronavirus vaccinations.
Biden also signed an executive order on Sept. 9 requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccinations and ensure workers are fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.
Hagerty described the president’s vaccine mandates as “yet another example of the Biden Administration’s government overreach,” saying the government should be “protecting” essential workers “who served courageously — despite the hardships and health risks — during the COVID-19 pandemic, not issuing unlawful federal mandates that threaten their jobs.”
Lummis added that the government should be “celebrating” the “heroism” of essential workers, “not punishing them for exercising their individual health freedoms.”
Meanwhile, president and CEO of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Todd Spencer, in endorsing the bill, thanked Blackburn, and said the measure would “ensure vaccination remains a personal decision for truckers,” while warning that a vaccine mandate that could lead to layoffs amid the congested supply chain crisis, would only make matters worse.
And national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Larry Cosme said the vaccine mandates “completely disregard” law enforcement officers’ “past service,” and said many are “facing termination for failure to comply, in some cases despite health concerns or on advice from their doctors.”
“This is wrong,” Cosme said. “We trusted these essential workers to make critical decisions to protect their communities during the pandemic response. We should trust them to make their own medical decisions now.”
But these Republican senators and organizations aren’t the only ones raising concerns.
Last week, a trade group representing cargo airline companies warned the president that vaccine mandates for workers could hurt operations ahead of the peak holiday season, saying it will be “virtually impossible” to have the workforce fully vaccinated by the December 8 deadline, and requesting an extension into 2022.
That request came amid worsening supply chain issues, which have become a source of mounting concern as global economies attempt to meet surging demand and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shortages of basic household items, such as toilet paper, raw materials needed for construction and critical tech components, such as semiconductors, have contributed to a surge in prices for consumers.
Retailers and the White House issued a stark warning to consumers with regards to holiday shopping, urging they buy gifts early as the shipping crisis stifles production.