Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced legislation, the Keeping Our COVID-19 Heroes Employed Act, which would protect essential workers from being fired for rejecting the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandates.
“This legislation very simply states that if you are deemed an essential employee during the COVID-19 pandemic — you showed up, you went to work, you did your job, you kept this country running — you would be exempt from the federal vaccine mandate,” Blackburn said during a Thursday press conference with industry experts and fellow Sens. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Mike Braun (R-IN).
Blackburn said she got the idea for the legislation from Tennesseans, including airline workers, truckers, healthcare workers, and first responders, all of whom worked throughout the pandemic in 2020. Many of these workers, she said, are concerned about getting the vaccine for a variety of reasons — from concerns over adverse effects to the reality of natural immunity.
“It should be your choice,” Blackburn said, adding that she is pleased that the world has the vaccines but emphasizing that it should be a personal choice.
Sen. Marshall, a physician, said he remembered frontline workers to be the “first” people “out there” during the pandemic.
“And now what’s happening is they’re getting slapped in the face. They’re being told even though they have natural immunity … you have to choose the jab or the job. I’m a big believer in natural immunity,” he said, adding it is “sad” that the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are going for the “one-size-fits-all” approach.
John Catanzara, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President, said officials are now presenting the frontline workers with “hard decisions,” but he said they “should be personal decisions,” and Brandon Judge, President of National Border Patrol Council, said they currently have over 6,000 CBP employees seeking exemptions from the mandate. Losing even a couple would be too many, he cautioned.
Sen. Braun added that the U.S. spent billions, into the trillions, to keep people in their jobs via the CARES Act, but now, “you’ve got an administration and the other side of the aisle that’s forgetting all of that.”
The Indiana senator said they are now “trying to do something that is, in my opinion, is going to be more draconian and have more bad effects than anything we’ve done along the way.” Braun said he ultimately hopes they use this legislation as a “pivot point” to get the government to back off with the “draconian policies.”
Larry Cosme of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, who was also on the call, added that it is “demoralizing and demeaning” to now villainize essential workers for refusing the vaccine, and David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, warned that the mandate will only further existing problems with the shortages.
Blackburn said Reps. Tim Burchett (R-TN) and Kat Cammack (R-FL) are pushing the legislation on the House side.