Last week, when the Biden Administration announced it was invoking emergency rules to force large employers to mandate vaccinations for their employees, some industry “leaders” proved that they weren’t really leaders at all. Like, for instance, David French, senior vice president of the National Retail Federation: “… the Biden administration has chosen to declare an ‘emergency’ and impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season,” he said in a prepared release.

First, let’s note that French is suggesting the orgy of conspicuous consumption we call “the holidays” is as important as ending this pandemic. We might point out to him that each of the 1,100 Americans who are still dying every day due to COVID-19 would have rather been home with family “during the crucial holiday shopping season” and that many of them work in the retail sector.

Next, we understand that French was referring to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency authority over workplace safety when he put “emergency” in quotations. But let’s be clear: If keeping Americans safe from a new killer virus isn’t an emergency, we don’t know what is.

And as for the “burdensome requirement” of making sure employees have time off to get a shot and that their vaccinations are recorded, we might note that OSHA already imposes many mandates and they are all designed to keep employees safe. The agency was created by a Republican president after popular outcry over working conditions, injuries and deaths on the job. Nothing hampers production quite like someone dying at the cash register next to you, Mr. French.

Lastly, Jan. 4 is after the shopping rush, unless French is referring to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is hardly a retail bellwether.

There is nothing new about government and even private employers mandating various health and safety protocols. OSHA already requires masks for certain health care and construction industry jobs. You can’t smoke on the job anymore, because it’s unhealthy for you and everyone else in the workplace. In California, kids have long been required to have 15 vaccinations against rubella, mumps, tetanus and other viruses and diseases before they can attend public schools.

Late last week, a federal appeals panel in Louisiana temporarily blocked the new rule, suggesting there were constitutional questions about federal overreach. Administration officials say they are confident the mandate will ultimately take effect.

Either way, the reality is we have had to add one more malady to the human condition. Get used to it. When the pandemic ends, this coronavirus will become endemic. The virus will continue to circulate, but hopefully in a manageable way, much the way seasonal flu is managed — with vaccination.

If you won’t get vaccinated to protect yourself and your family, please get a shot to protect your job. Just get a shot.

— Clay Lambert

Clay Lambert is the editorial director for Coastside News Group. After years working at regional daily newspapers, he began as editor of the Half Moon Bay Review in 2004.

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