By Steven Kovac
LANSING, Mich.—A public hearing on a proposed new law to ban employers from requiring workers to be vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus drew hundreds of people, many dressed in hospital scrubs, to the state capital on Thursday morning.
The overwhelmingly supportive crowd jammed into a hearing on the bill conducted by the House Committee on Workforce, Trades, and Talent, filling the spacious committee room and four overflow rooms to capacity.
The Informed Consent in the Workplace Act (pdf), offered by Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine) and 16 other sponsors, prohibits employers from threatening, firing, discriminating, retaliating against, or refusing to hire workers that decline to receive vaccinations for the CCP virus, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from forcing employees who have refused the vaccines to wear a mask as a consequence of their decision, and from being required to wear or display a mark that distinguishes the individual from vaccinated coworkers.
The bill also allows aggrieved employees to sue employers for injunctive relief and for triple any financial losses they incur, plus costs and attorney fees.
Committee Chairperson Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan) opened the hearing by stating, “Thousands of employees across the state are protesting employers forcing them to put something into their bodies that they don’t want.”
The bill imposes a strict regulation on Michigan businesses, a concept that Republicans have traditionally resisted. On the other hand, normally pro-regulation Democrats, such as committee minority co-chair Terry Sabo, are opposed to the bill, contending it will be an obstacle to putting the pandemic behind us and will hinder economic recovery.
“I’m disappointed to see my colleagues push a bill that is so clearly anti-business,” said Sabo. “The business community has joined together and made their voices loud and clear in opposition to this legislation, and I stand with them.”
Allor observed that Republicans generally believe that government is too intrusive in business, but said her bill takes the vaccine mandate issue beyond the rights of businesses to the “civil liberties and basic rights and freedoms of the people as individuals.”
Allor warned the committee of the dangers of opening the door for businesses to mandate what chemical agents their workers must have in their own bodies. She warned that someday businesses may determine that things like maternity leave are not economically efficient and instead decide to mandate birth control for all female employees.
Most of Michigan’s largest hospital and healthcare systems, employing hundreds of thousands of workers, have announced that they would begin enforcing a vaccination requirement for staff as a condition of employment. Henry Ford Healthcare Systems set a Sept. 10 deadline. Ascension Healthcare Systems set a deadline of Nov. 12, while William Beaumont Health Systems and Spectrum Health Systems will require staff to be vaccinated after one of the three vaccines receives full FDA approval.
Multiple surveys have shown that there is considerable hesitation and resistance among healthcare workers to receiving the shot, with three out of 10 not yet vaccinated. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, one in six healthcare professionals have said they would rather quit than get the shot.
The numbers show that a minority of healthcare workers oppose employer-mandated vaccinations. Underscoring this point is Bob Riney, president of healthcare operations at Henry Ford Healthcare Systems.
“We have received widespread support from our patients, team members and the community for our decision to require the COVID-19 vaccine for team members,” he said in a recent statement. “We acknowledge that uncertainty remains for some, and respect the rights of those members of our Henry Ford family … We are deeply committed to working alongside every team member who has concerns or questions.”
Prior to the start of the Lansing hearing, one healthcare worker, who would not give her name for fear of reprisal from her employer, told the Epoch Times, “Here’s how it works in my hospital. Management first ‘suggests’ that we get vaccinated. After two ‘suggestions,’ we get a warning. After three ‘suggestions,’ we get suspended and escorted out of the building.”
When asked if she felt coerced by her employer to take the vaccine, one medical assistant from the Michigan State University Medical Center answered, “When your boss tells you to get vaccinated or get fired, I’d call that coercion. I am proud of the MSU students that are standing up and fighting for their rights in opposing mandatory vaccinations. There’s a petition with 20,000 signatures. I know of faculty that support the cause but won’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs.”
In a tearful testimony before the committee, Katie Kirn, who would not name the Michigan hospital system for which she works as a nurse, shared that in June she received an email from her employer threatening her termination for noncompliance with the system’s vaccine mandate. She recounted how, after asking questions about the virus at a “listening session,” she was told by management that her participation had been noticed and that she appeared “distressed.” She was then given a week off “to think.”
Kirn said, “When I returned to work … I was warned that as a leader, I must get on board with what the system is doing. I was told not to answer any further questions regarding COVID. I was offered help finding another job and told that if I disagree with this mandate … I should resign.”
Kirn continued, “Managers have been sent a list of employees on their unit who have not been vaccinated. They are being pressured, coerced, and intimidated into receiving the vaccine. They are being told they won’t be able to find other jobs in healthcare, and those in school are being told they must comply in order to receive further education.”
“We are not being presented with a choice from these hospitals. We are being presented with an ultimatum…We went from heroes to zeroes. From essential to completely expendable,” said Kirn.
In addition to Michigan State, a number of Michigan universities, including the University of Michigan, Grand Valley State, and Wayne State have vaccine mandates already in place for staff and students.
Employees of the State of Michigan are required to wear a mask in the workplace, but have not yet been mandated to receive the vaccine.
The Michigan Small Business Association recently reported that, outside of the healthcare industry, almost no private businesses have thus far imposed vaccination mandates on their employees.
Brad Williams, spokesperson for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, opposed the bill as “another government overreach,” and said that “vaccinations are necessary to end the pandemic.”
Williams went on to tell the committee that the state’s labor shortage and vaccine resistance are intertwined.
“The Michigan workforce has shrunk by 4.2 percent since the pandemic, largely because of health and safety issues at the workplace,” he said.
Williams’s message to vaccine mandate opponents in danger of losing their jobs: “Find new employment where you are more comfortable.”
Several doctors presented data to the committee questioning the safety and effectiveness of the three CCP virus vaccines and mask-wearing. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are “safe, effective, and free!”
The CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, is the pathogen which causes COVID-19.
Dr. James Culver made the case that the natural immunity developed by people previously infected with the CCP virus was better than the immunity provided by the vaccine. Culver based his comments on a study by Cleveland Clinic conducted in December of 2020 and the five months that followed. That study was completed before the emergence of the Delta variant. Cleveland Clinic released the study’s results on June 9.
Dr. Christina Parks told the committee that 70 percent of black people residing in the city of Detroit have not been vaccinated because they do not trust the government. Parks pointed out that workplace vaccine mandates would have the effect of excluding them from the workforce and from participating in much of the economy of the city.
Via Zoom, the committee heard from constitutional law professor, former federal judge, and current president of the Great Lakes Justice Center, William Wagner, who stated, “Mandating vaccines could violate the Constitution. Entities will face lawsuits they are likely to lose.”