PRESS EDITORIAL: Vaccine linked to absurd political behavior

The politicalization of vaccination has surged to a new high on the absurdity meter.

It has soared to the head-scratching, mind-boggling, breath-taking point where some Republican legislators are turning against Wisconsin businesses and their owners.

The legislators want to change the unemployment compensation law to allow some employees who quit their jobs or are fired for violating an employer rule to collect benefits.

The employees getting these benefits would be those who are discharged for violating a company rule requiring Covid-19 vaccination and those who say they voluntarily quit because they didn’t want to comply with a vaccination requirement.

Sponsors of this anti-business legislation include three legislators who represent parts of Ozaukee County: State Sen. Duey Stroebel and State Reps. Rob Brooks and Dan Knodl.

These are politicians who take every opportunity to portray themselves as champions of business and defenders of private enterprise, particularly small-business owners. So it follows that their attempt to upend long-established unemployment compensation rules is cloaked in the liberty-for-all rationale of anti-vaccination orthodoxy and resistance to those old devils “government bureaucrats.”

In a memo seeking the support of other legislators, the sponsors wrote: “The decision to get the Covid-19 vaccine is a decision to be made by individuals, not government bureaucrats or employers.”

Government bureaucrats have nothing to do with employer vaccination rules. The proposed legislation penalizes capitalists, not bureaucrats.

The bill is so potentially harmful to business that you have to wonder whether its authors fully understand its consequences. Presumably they know that 100% of unemployment compensation benefits (not including any federal Covid relief additions to UC payments) are paid for by employers, but that is only one item on the negative-impact list.

Employers do not adopt vaccination rules because they are vaccination zealots trying to prove a point; they do it because they are trying to protect their businesses by keeping their workforce as healthy as possible during a pandemic.

An outbreak of Covid infections can have a devastating effect on businesses of any size. Large employers sustain losses. Smaller businesses can be forced to shut down operations and lay off healthy employees. As was seen in the pre-vaccination days of the pandemic, Covid outbreaks can put small employers out of business.

Even now, economists see the fast-spreading Delta variant of Covid-19 as the principal threat to economic recovery.

A side defect of the proposed legislation is that it opens the door for unscrupulous workers to quit for any reason and still qualify for unemployment benefits by claiming they left their jobs because of their employer’s vaccination policy.

Under all applicable federal and state employment regulations, employers have the right to require their employees to be vaccinated and to discharge those who refuse. Under Wisconsin unemployment compensation regulations, workers who leave their jobs voluntarily or are fired for violating employer rules do not qualify for benefits.

Liberty is at issue in this attempt to rewrite the UC law—but it is the liberty of employers to apply and enforce work rules that is threatened.

The legislation is wrong on pure business grounds. The pros and cons of Covid vaccination are irrelevant. Stroebel, nonetheless, could not resist weighing in with a comment that employer’s vaccination policies ignore “the science demonstrating the role prior infection plays in conferring immunity and protection.”

For the record, the science, based on studies by the CDC and other health agencies, has concluded that immunity derived from infection is limited at best and offers markedly less protection than vaccination.

If the legislation that bends unemployment benefit rules to make a political statement at the expense of employers advances, it will be an embarrassment to the Legislatures’s Republican majority. Its leaders should see that this absurd bill is deposited in the nearest Capitol wastebasket or, better, is shredded or burned.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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