SPRINGERVILLE — Every employee of the Springerville Generating Station will be required by the federal government to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and a meeting about that brought a protest and demonstration near the plant on Wednesday, Nov. 10.
According to the Salt River Project website (which owns one of the four units at the plant) UNS Energy Corporation, parent company of Tucson Electric Power, operates the plant. TEP owns two of the units there. Susan Gray, president and CEO of UNS Energy was expected to have a “town hall” style meeting with plant employees on Nov. 10 to discuss the mandates. She sent out a letter announcing the meeting and a copy was sent to the Independent. According to the UNS Energy website, the corporation is not affiliated with UniSource Energy, Inc., an Illinois company, which provides energy services to some communities here.
The generating station isn’t alone in having to comply with federal mandates, and there are actually more than one federal decree requiring vaccinations. President Biden signed an executive order on Sept. 9 which directs all federal contractors, that is, any entity that has a contract with the federal government to supply goods and services, are required to have all their employees vaccinated against COVID-19. Failure of the business to comply means no more federal contract. All federal employees are required to be vaccinated as well, including military personnel.
The second mandate comes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which has decreed that all businesses employing 100 persons or more to require vaccinations, or weekly testing, or else be heavily fined. The Biden Administration believes that an old law regarding asbestos in the workplace gives OSHA the authority to mandate that.
It might be noted that the mandates are not federal statutes that have been introduced, debated, and enacted by a majority vote by elected representatives; rather they are decrees by the executive branch of government — the president and an agency in the executive branch. Already another co-equal branch of government, the courts, have been asked to review the mandates to determine whether they violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee against government overreach, and just on Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stepped up.
With regard to the OSHA mandate, that court put a halt to it for now, and the “stay” as it’s called, applies nationwide. The circuit includes parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, some of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. “The mandate is staggeringly overbroad,” the court stated. “The mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers.)”
The court concluded that the OSHA mandate likely violates the constitutional protections of “collective liberty.” and ordered the Department of Labor (to which OSHA belongs) to take no further action to implement it until the matter can be fully briefed and its constitutionality ruled on.
Among those who choose not to be vaccinated, the government’s “sledgehammer” approach bemoaned by the court might be one reason for the hesitancy, but there are others which have been loudly expressed.
The vaccine itself, called an mRNA type, has been studied since the 1960s but the vaccines themselves are relatively new. The safety and efficacy of them seems to have been confirmed in the last year, but that brings up yet another possible explanation about why the vaccine had not been universally snapped up.
Gallup reports that polling from September 2021, shows that 60% of Americans have no trust or very little trust in the federal government, so it’s not surprising that information from the federal government, regardless of the topic, would be largely discredited.
In the meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic has infected 46,626,034 persons in the US by state, territory and jurisdiction, stated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker as of Friday, Nov. 12.
That’s about 14% of the US population which the 2020 Census calculates at 329,000,000. According to the CDC tracker, total deaths from COVID-19 are 755,201 which suggests that of the 14% of Americans who get the disease, about 1.6% of them died of it. Put that way, maybe some have decided that they can live with the risk of not getting vaccinated. On the other hand, medical professionals who deal with the sickness and deaths day in and day out are simply astonished that there is any hesitancy at all.
Yet some have resolved to live with the risk and object to being required, as a condition of employment, to have any version of the mRNA vaccine introduced into their bodies.
Those objections were front and center outside Wednesday’s meeting as families of the workers demanded to be heard. “My body, my choice!” read a sign.
Besides the government’s approach being like a sledgehammer, as the Fifth Circuit wrote, the 1.6% fatality rate calculated by the CDC, Gallup’s polling showing the distrust of information from government, many predict the mandates may cause a mass exodus of managers and employees, drivers, dock workers, athletes, food service staff as well as soldiers, sailors, airmen and police.
If enforced, some see the mandates affecting a big change to the economy and society in general, especially now when there are already 10 million jobs waiting to be filled according to the latest unemployment numbers. What kind of change is yet to be seen.