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Defiant Workers Create Conflicts Over Vaccine Mandates

Defiant Workers Create Conflicts Over Vaccine Mandates

A small but significant number of American workers have been deciding whether to quit their jobs and careers in defiance of what they consider intrusive edicts that affect their freedoms: COVID19 vaccine mandates.

The Biden administration, public health officials, and many business leaders agree that vaccine requirements are legal, prudent actions necessary to help the world emerge from a pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans and nearly 5 million people worldwide. But in a highly politicized environment where emotions and tempers are charged, many workers have been caught up in the movement to eschew any mandate handed down by a Democratic President.

Thousands of people have sought religious or medical exemptions that were rejected; others won’t stand to be told what to do and have quit or been fired. The refusers come from all types of occupations — defense industry workers, police officers, firefighters, educators, and health care workers. In Seattle, a group of city firefighters turned in their boots at City Hall on Tuesday to protest a vaccination requirement.

These so-called “defiant workers” make up a small fraction of the overall workforce, with many cities, states, and businesses reporting that more than 9 out of 10 of their workers are complying with mandates. Some states, including Texas, Montana, and Florida, are gearing up to fight or undercut the Biden mandates. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday barring any entity from requiring vaccines and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he will call a special session to pass legislation to combat vaccine mandates, saying that, “in Florida, your right to earn a living is not contingent upon whatever choices you’re making in terms of these injections.”

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But they have the potential to create disruptions in a tight labor market and have become the latest roadblock in overcoming the vaccine hesitancy that allowed the COVID-19 crisis to take a devastating turn over the summer. In many cases, the reasons for the objections are rooted in misinformation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups that represent large employers have warned workers might simply migrate to jobs at smaller businesses where they don’t face vaccination requirements. That could create challenges for large retailers going into the holiday season, among other disruptions, the Chamber warned.

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