By Conduit For Action
WORKER PROTECTION NARROW AND TOO LATE FOR MANY
The Arkansas General Assembly considered a broad range of bills to protect workers who face the loss of their jobs for refusal to submit to COVID-19 vaccines. In the end only one limited protection was passed. In addition, enough legislators voted against the protection, or simply did not vote, to delay it becoming law until after vaccine mandate deadlines set by Walmart, Tyson, and certain hospitals have passed and the corporations have already purged non-vaccinated workers.
The only protection passed says a worker is exempt from a vaccine mandate if the person has natural immunity from having had COVID-19. HB1977 and SB739 are substantially identical bills passed on this subject.
Because the corporations were able to convince enough legislators to vote against the legislation to deny a 2/3rds majority, the bills will not become effective until mid-January, most likely January 14, 2022.[i]
Again, this protection will become effective too late for employees of these corporations who are already under a vaccine deadline.
AFRAID TO EVEN TALK ABOUT WALMART, TYSON, AND THE HOSPITALS
In the legislative session legislators seemed afraid of Walmart, Tyson, and the hospitals. During the several days of debate we recall only one instance of a legislator even mentioning them by saying “Walmart.” The intent sections of the bills on natural immunity also focused on blaming the federal government, but the big federal mandate is being worked on by a federal agency and is likely to face many legal challenges.
Some legislators cited their reason for opposing the protections as being their pro-business stand as Republicans and therefore not wanting to interfere with a business decision.
This stand is problematic for three reasons:
- It was the Democrats who were their allies in fighting the worker protections.
- Walmart also imposed a vaccine mandate on some of their vendors. This means the legislators who cited being pro-business chose big politically active corporations over smaller businesses who don’t want Walmart’s vaccine mandate and who do not want to be shut out from selling to Walmart.
- In the past the Republican Party has supported the economic freedom of workers, such as civil rights laws prohibiting businesses from firing workers because of their race, creed, color, national origin, or sex.
The situation pitted the economic freedom of huge corporations who are big players in the political scene against the economic freedom of workers and some mom-and-pop businesses who want to sell to Walmart without being told what must be injected into their employees’ bodies.
A minority of Republican legislators chose these big corporations over the economic freedom of both workers and the small businesses being forced to adopt vaccine mandates. When combined with the Democrat votes, these Republicans denied enough votes for the protections to stop some bills and to delay the natural immunity bill until deadlines have passed.
Many unvaccinated workers fear life threatening side effects of the vaccine, fear long-term side effects on their unborn children, have a religious objection to the vaccine, have a medical condition that could make the vaccine riskier, or simply think a corporation should not be able to tell them what to inject into their bodies.
The first client listed by Governor Hutchinson’s law firm is Walmart, which imposes vaccine mandates on some workers and vendors. So, it is no surprise Governor Hutchinson has been critical of the effort to protect workers.
Meanwhile the neighboring state of Texas, has a Republican governor who is trying to stop vaccine mandates.
As of this writing it is not known whether Governor Asa Hutchinson will sign the bills, let them become law without his signature, or veto the bill.
SUPPORTING ECONOMIC FREEDOM
Conduit for Action supports economic freedom. In this case the ability of workers to keep their jobs outweighs the desire of huge corporations to tell workers what to inject into their bodies. Further, big corporations have no business telling smaller businesses to force their workers to submit to the same injections.
We hope the employees who have lost their jobs or who are about to lose their jobs find much better employers. Arkansas has a history of losing skilled and educated workers to Texas; unfortunately this may be another one of those times.
Primary elections are only a few months away. It will be important to know on which side your legislator stood. We will be reminding you of their voting records as the primary approaches.
[i] We asked David Ferguson who is a former Director of the Bureau of Legislative Research for his calculation of the effective date of the bills on natural immunity. “The bills did not get the 2/3rds majority needed to allow them to become effective immediately. This means there will be a considerable delay. The General Assembly is set to adjourn sine die on October 15, 2021 but could adjourn earlier. Assuming the October 15 adjournment, the bills will become effective on January 14,2022.
When a bill does not have an emergency clause it becomes effective on the 91st day after sine die adjournment. Why 91 days? If the bill does not have an emergency clause the Arkansas Constitution allows a 90-day period for the people to stop a bill by filing a referendum petition which allows the people to vote whether to approve the bill. If no referendum petition is filed or a petition doesn’t have enough signatures, the bill become effective the day after the 90-day period expires, which is the 91st day after sine die adjournment. Also, in calculating the 91st day, you do not count the day of adjournment.”