Kristen Manouchehri Oliveira is the human resources director at Lastique International Corp., a raw plastics distributor in Louisville, KY. She recently discussed employee coronavirus vaccine status with a Wall Street Journal reporter. It wasn’t a big deal. “She and her colleagues now open job interviews by asking: ‘Have you received the Covid vaccine, or are you planning to receive it?’” the April 26 article relates. “If an applicant is unwilling to do so, the interview ends.”
“It’s no problem at all,” Oliveira chirps. “It’s just you can’t work at Lastique.”
As simple as that, the next phase of coronavirus social curbs beckons. As the mask mandates slowly start to melt away, the get-your-shot pressure campaign is going to increase. And no Big Stick is likely to work better than “you’ll do it if you want a paycheck.”
We’re Not … But They Are
President Biden gave a hint of how things will work with a startlingly blunt May 13 tweet taken from remarks he had made earlier in the day. “After a year of hard work and so much sacrifice, the rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.” The White House understands that it has no standing to enforce any such self-pronounced Biden Rules on the American people. Having federal agents roaming the streets checking Americans’ vaccine papers is as impractical as it is distasteful. Other ways must be devised.
“We’re not counting on vaccine mandates at all,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky told NBC’s Meet the Press in an interview that aired May 16.
No. Of course not. However …
“It may very well be that local businesses, local jurisdictions will work towards vaccine mandates. That is going to be locally driven and not federally driven.” The term “locally driven” here should be seen for what it truly is. Walensky is saying that the pressure to get the jab will hit you right where you live, impacting even your ability to put food on the table. It’s hard to be more local in your drive than that.
“Any person joining Delta in the future, a future employee, we’re going to mandate they be vaccinated before they can sign up with the company,” Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian proclaimed on CNN May 13.
If the focus seems to be on potential new hires for the moment, that is because dealing with the rights of employees is a bit of a trickier nut to crack. Nevertheless, the groundwork was being prepared well before the vaccines were developed. We wrote in November of employment “experts” making their way onto big-box media platforms to give an early green light to what was around the corner:
“’This idea that vaccines can be mandated is well-established,’ Jay Rosenlieb, partner and chair of the Labor and Employment Group at Klein DeNatale Goldner law firm in California, told CNN. ‘I fully expect there will be employers that choose to make it mandatory,’ David Barron, an employment attorney at Cozen O’Connor, stated.”
It won’t be so clear cut, though. Individual health and religious exemption claims and Republican efforts in states throughout America to pass laws banning vaccine passports will present barriers. Employers may believe not hiring a person who won’t take the jab isn’t such a bad PR look for them. Terminating unwilling workers with deeply felt personal concerns – be they about safety, moral problems with abortion and vaccine production, or anything else – is not likely to go over so well.
Redefining the Threat
The solution? Turn the argument on its ear. Make it appear that the employees themselves are clamoring for mandatory vaccinations for the greater health of all. It seems big-box media outlets are already road testing this angle of approach. A May 15 New York Times article featured two themes we may be seeing a lot more of in the immediate future: emotional and functional appeals in favor of workplace mandates.
[bookpromo align=”left”] First, the emotional: “Some readers said employers should mandate vaccines to protect workers,” the article stated. “’I have Type 1 diabetes, and if I catch Covid-19, it could potentially have serious consequences for me,’ wrote one reader. ‘I do not want to return to the office unless I know that everyone else around me has been vaccinated.’”
And then, the functional: “Elihu Rose in Flower Hill, N.Y., wants to know what liability a company has if unvaccinated employees infect their co-workers,” The Times account continued. “’Did the employer provide a “safe work environment?”’ she asks.”
And just like that, The Times has taken the uncomfortable specter of bullying employers and spun it into mental images of selfish, and physically dangerous unvaccinated employees. If the past 15 months have taught Americans anything, it should be that the harsher social curbs will often be proffered as essential for the greater good.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.