By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Monday joined fellow legislators in introducing a bill that would prevent essential workers from being fired if they refuse to comply with a proposed federal vaccine mandate.
Lummis joined U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, and other colleagues to introduce the Keeping Our COVID-19 Heroes Employed Act on Monday.
“From the earliest days of the pandemic, our frontline workers and first responders in Wyoming put themselves in harm’s way to respond to emergencies, to keep essential goods stocked and to care for the sick in our communities,” Lummis said. “We should be celebrating their heroism, not punishing them for exercising their individual health freedoms. I’m proud to defend their rights and fight the Biden administration’s mandate.”
The administration has proposed requiring coronavirus vaccines for federal employees, health care workers and employees at companies employing more than 100 people. The federal rules that would put the mandate in place have not yet been issued.
Under the bill proposed by Lummis and others, essential workers who would be protected from being fired if they were unwilling or unable to get the vaccine would be the same people deemed as providing essential services by states during the pandemic. This would include people who work in health care and at businesses such as grocery stores, airlines and trucking companies.
Lummis and the other senators expressed concern that the new vaccine mandate would mean more job openings, at a time when the U.S. has already recorded more than 10 million open jobs in August.
Wyoming has not escaped the employment crisis, with reports coming out this year that the state has seen a shortage of snowplow drivers, restaurant employees and workers in other fields.
“(Workers in) Wyoming and across the nation are under threat of losing their jobs if they choose not to take the COVID vaccine,” said a release from Lummis’ office. “While these vaccines have proven to be safe and effective, the decision to get vaccinated is a personal one. People in Wyoming – especially the essential workers who showed up to work every day during the worst days of the pandemic – should not be forced into vaccination under the threat of losing their job.”
The state’s unemployment rate has dropped this year, but it’s more due to people leaving the job force than getting jobs.
Ty Stockton, with the Workforce Service Office in Cheyenne, previously said there isn’t really a way to find out why people are not going back to work, since his office only sees people who are actively looking for employment.
Lummis joined Blackburn and Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee, Mike Braun, R-Indiana, Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, in introducing the legislation this week.