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Mandates should be decided by employers — not White House

Two conservative officials from our region are correct on one of the most contentious topics of our time — though we fear many, blinded by their own agendas, will not appreciate that both men are correct.

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, is the leading sponsor of legislation to block the Biden Administration’s effort to mandate vaccines for private-sector employees.

The mandate requiring private-sector employees to get vaccinated is, as Keller said, “overreach.” As the Sun-Gazette editorialized in late September, executive action to require private-sector vaccinations bypasses congressional debate, during which both sides could make their cases and lawmakers directly elected by the affected workers can make a decision.

Such congressional debate could even yield a compromise more reasonable than the White House’s blanket mandate on all employers with 100 or more employees. As the Sun-Gazette observed in that September editorial, federal action might be more warranted if targeted to private-sector entities where a large number of clients are at higher risk from COVID-19 or where employees have to work in close proximity to each other for long periods of time with ventilation that is simply not adequate for the challenges of a pandemic.

Before Congress can have that debate and make those decisions, private-sector employers can and should weigh their own unique situations and consider if mandating employees get vaccinated is the right call for them.

Which is exactly what Geisinger Medical Center did, and what U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, a Federalist Society alumnus whose appointment to the federal bench was championed by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, correctly permitted the health care provider to do.

As the Sun-Gazette reported in late November, Brann denied an injunction for Geisinger Medical Center employees terminated because they chose to decline both vaccination and routine testing for COVID-19.

As a private entity — and especially one so rooted in the profession of caring for everyone’s health and well-being — Geisinger was well within its rights to set the conditions for employment. Employees dissatisfied with the conditions are free to seek employment elsewhere.

The employees who sought the injunction were attempting to infringe on Geisinger’s rights to set such conditions — a dangerously slippery slope. If allowed to be set as precedent, it would lead to employers trapped with insubordinate employees whose actions undermine or even destroy what their co-workers and employers pour their own hard work into accomplishing.

The standards and expectations for employees should be set by employers — they are the ones with the most relevant experience to guide such decisions, and the most at stake for the consequences of those decisions. Not capriciously by a White House disregarding debate and nuance, and not by employees wanting to disregard the experience and investment of their employers.

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