Monday, January 24, 2022

OCPA: Workers, employers win with vax-mandate ruling

Workers, employers win with vax-mandate ruling
By Jonathan Small

Oklahoma’s workers and their employers alike won an important victory when the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down the Biden administration’s COVID-vaccine mandate for private businesses. That mandate clearly exceeded the government’s authority, opened the door for further abuses of power, and would have had a significant negative impact on the labor supply.

The case also shows what happens when one man has courage. Brandon Trosclair, a Louisiana business owner, joined with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy (a think tank similar to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs) to lead the charge against the Biden mandate in court.

Trosclair employs nearly 500 people across 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi that conduct business under the names Ralph’s Market, Butcher Boy, and Save A Lot. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations imposed by the Biden administration, all employees of businesses with 100 or more staff members–an estimated 80 million private-sector workers–would have been required to be vaccinated or tested weekly and wear a mask as a condition of employment. Businesses that failed to comply faced fines up to $136,532. Yet Trosclair chose to stand up for his workers and oppose the mandate in court.

There were sound practical reasons to oppose the mandate. Businesses already face a labor shortage that would have been exacerbated by the mandate since many workers were expected to quit jobs to avoid the vaccine.

But there were also crucial philosophical reasons to oppose the mandate. Trosclair told OCPA that the decision to vaccinate (or not) is an individual employee’s decision, not their employer’s decision “and it’s not the federal government’s decision.”

I know many Oklahoma employers hold similar views, having spoken personally to many of them. They felt personal decisions about the vaccine should be left to employees. They also understood that the mandate would augment the existing labor shortage.

It’s notable that the court’s ruling on the mandate coincides with the nationwide surge of the Omicron variant of COVID. The latest variation of the virus is ripping through all communities, infecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Thus, the pragmatic argument for a vaccine mandate—that it would reduce COVID spread—was being decimated in real life even as the legal underpinnings of the mandate were destroyed in court. Had the ruling gone the other way, it’s now clear that the mandate would have caused great harm to the workforce while providing little or no public-health benefit.

In general, it is better to trust citizens to make informed decisions about their personal circumstances based on their personal situation and the on-the-ground realities around them. No “one sizes fits all” edict from a far-off bureaucrat can substitute for the real-world understanding of the average citizen.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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