By KELLY TSHIBAKA
It’s as simple as this: The decision to get the COVID shot is one for individuals to make, in consultation with their healthcare providers. Nevertheless, President Biden wrongly believes he has the legal and moral authority not only to make medical decisions for millions of Americans, but also to impose those decisions on them and their employers. That decision has 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 that would require private businesses with more than 100 employees to demand that workers be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. The shot 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 such as 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 likely would have devastating consequences for families, workers, our economy, and critical industries.
Fortunately, we Alaskans support our workers and we 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 (ADA). Employers must make every effort to make reasonable accommodations for these employees.
The obvious limits on federal power have not been a barrier to Biden’s bullying tactics before; he already tried to impose an eviction moratorium on private property owners because of the COVID pandemic. The Supreme Court rejected that one, and it should reject this one, too.
We 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 in our state. Meanwhile, many other states are likely to experience a healthcare shortage, too. The CEO of a major hospital system serving patients in four states estimated that he risked losing 15% of his nursing staff if he required they take the COVID shot. In another harbinger of things to come, a hospital in New York has stopped delivering babies because so many healthcare workers have quit their jobs in protest over President Biden’s COVID shot mandate.
But that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Biden Administration has already hinted that it may require a COVID shot for air travel. For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said he would support a vaccine requirement to board commercial airplanes. When asked about that possibility, White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared open to it, saying only, “We’ll continue to look for ways to save more lives.”
When Alaska joined the Union in 1959, it did so with the guarantee that it would stand on “equal footing” with all other states. Yet, an airplane vaccination requirement would have a disproportionately harmful impact on us and Hawaii. We do not 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 have to 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. We are facing a life and health issue with COVID, but Biden is making it worse – far worse. 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. It is shameful that it is actually part of a growing pattern in his leadership, the most recent of which is abandoning untold numbers of Americans in Afghanistan, leaving them defenseless against the Taliban.
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.