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House panel holds hearing on banning businesses from requiring vaccines

a nurse holds a vial of one of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Spectrum Health

Businesses could not require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and also could not require unvaccinated people to wear protective masks under a billthat was up for a hearing Thursday before a state House committee. 

Republican Representative Sue Allor is the bill sponsor.

“What they’re taking away is the right of the individual to opt out of the vaccine,” she said during the hearing before the House Workforce, Trade and Talent Committee.

“The situation we are seeing right now is many employees are faced with a decision to take a vaccine, continue with a paycheck in their chosen profession, or to be fired,” she said. “This is not right.”

Hundreds of people lined up in person and online to testify, mostly against allowing businesses to impose vaccine mandates.

But business and health care groups are generally lined up against the bill.

Brad Williams with the Detroit Regional Chamber, which represents businesses in southeast Michigan, said it’s already tough to recruit COVID-wary workers. 

“The labor shortage and vaccines are absolutely intertwined,” he said.

“We are pro-free market for both employers and employees,” said Williams. “This proposed legislation solves a problem that does not exist, and replaces the independent judgement of business owners to respond to their employees, customers and other unique circumstances with a top-down, one-size-fits-all decree from Lansing.”

The bill would also roll back requirements for vaccines that protect against flu, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s spokesman Bobby Leddy said via a statement that the measure would not make it past her desk:

“Our top priority remains slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that businesses can keep their doors open and continue our state’s strong economic jumpstart. The science shows that vaccines offer unparalleled protection against this deadly disease, and masks are the best alternative for people who aren’t eligible for a vaccine yet. In Michigan, unvaccinated Michiganders accounted for a staggering 98% of COVID cases, 95% of hospitalizations, and 96% of deaths from January to July of this year. With three safe and effective vaccines readily available to every eligible Michigander, these vaccines are the best way for businesses to protect employees from getting sick. Governor Whitmer supports businesses who make the decision to protect their workforce and would veto any legislation that prevented them from doing so.”

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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