It’s as simple as this: The decision to get the COVID shot is for individuals to make, in consultation with their healthcare providers. Nevertheless, President Biden wrongly believes he has the legal and moral authority to make medical decisions for millions of Americans and impose them on people and their employers. This will have disastrous consequences for Alaska, and it will become even worse if Biden extends his mandate overreach to air travel.
Even though Biden previously said he would not declare a vaccine mandate, he has issued a directive forcing private businesses with more than 100 employees to require workers to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. The mandate also applies to healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement; military personnel; government contractors; and to federal, state, and local government employees, including K-12 educators, in states like Alaska. Many employers won’t be able to absorb the cost of weekly testing, so the vaccination mandate will result in a stark choice for most people: submit to the Biden mandate or risk losing their job. This will have devastating consequences for families, workers, our economy, and critical industries.
Fortunately, we Alaskans support our workers and understand that workers’ rights cannot summarily be dismissed by Biden. For example, workers may file EEO complaints saying that termination on refusal to receive the COVID shot violates their sincerely held religious beliefs under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Similarly, employees can object to taking the COVID shot due to a disability, if that disability is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers must make every effort to make reasonable accommodations for these employees.
Alaskans support public health, but ironically, Biden’s mandate threatens the integrity of our healthcare system. Alaska already is experiencing a healthcare workforce shortage; Biden’s mandate will only compound the crisis.
We’re seeing this happen elsewhere already. The CEO of a major hospital system estimated that he risked losing 15% of his nursing staff if they are required to take the COVID shot. A New York hospital has stopped delivering babies because so many workers have quit in protest over the Biden COVID shot mandate.
This may be just the beginning. The Biden Administration has already hinted that it may require a COVID shot for air travel. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said he would support a vaccine requirement to board commercial airplanes. And White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed openness to it, saying, “We’ll continue to look for ways to save more lives.”
When Alaska joined the Union in 1959, it came with the guarantee that we stand on “equal footing” with all other states. Yet, an airplane vaccination requirement would disproportionately harm us and Hawaii. We don’t share a border with another U.S. state, and our citizens cannot just hop in a car to cross state lines; we must fly. Moreover, we still don’t have infrastructure equivalent to other states – we often must fly just to reach other hub areas within our state. Many of our workers and businesses have work that requires air travel. Restricting our travel by executive fiat would violate both the Alaska Statehood Act and the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives only Congress the authority to regulate economic activity among the states.
We also know that many Alaskans travel to the lower 48 to receive medical care, either because certain treatments or procedures are not available here or because they are prohibitively expensive. A restriction on travel, then, could very well be a death sentence for some, and a loss of quality of life for others.
Biden already has demonstrated his disdain for Alaskans. He began by assaulting our energy industries and our property rights; now he is attacking our employment rights, our ability to continue making a living, and our medical care. It is appalling that our President treats hostile foreign nations like Russia, China, and Iran better than he treats his own citizens, offering them energy and economic opportunities that he has denied us Alaskans.
All of this exacerbates our frustration with incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has been a collaborator of Biden’s and has enabled his destructive and divisive agenda. Her inaction and silence reflect her alliance.
We have seen enough from the Biden administration to know that he has no regard or respect for our great state. When I’m Alaska’s U.S. Senator, I will stand up for us with courage, conviction, and common sense to protect our workers, families, rights, and economy.
Kelly Tshibaka is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alaska.