WFNHP Statement on Employer Mandated COVID
Vaccinations for Healthcare Workers
August 20, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a largely unmitigated disaster. More than half a million Americans have died as a result of the virus. Through it all, nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, other healthcare professionals, and the various staff that keep our hospitals running have been worked to the bone. Without the efforts of these workers, including the workers who we represent across the state of Wisconsin, many more would have tragically lost their lives. As if healthcare workers weren’t a vital part of society before, the debt they are owed after what they’ve struggled through over the past year and a half is vast.
Despite the service of these workers to the communities in which they live and beyond, the healthcare corporations that they are employed by have not done enough to reciprocate these efforts. At several junctures over the course of the pandemic, employers have refused to offer bonuses for essential workers, failed to provide ample Personal Protective Equipment, failed to provide proper medical equipment, failed to provide proper staffing, and failed to produce appropriately safe working conditions. To sum it up, corporate healthcare employers have failed their workers and the people to whom they provide care. While the frontlines were starved for support, it was the bottom lines that received the reinforcements. This behavior isn’t new on the part of these corporations, but the stark differences between their words and their actions has never been more clear than now.
It is within this framework that many of our members and other healthcare workers came to hear the news of a mandatory vaccination policy at our represented facilities. The reality of the situation is that management has widely disregarded worker safety for the duration of the pandemic. As a result, these workers are skeptical of management’s intentions, because they've demonstrated a higher priority for profit over safety time and time again. Our members, and as of now, unorganized healthcare workers don’t always have reason to trust management to do things that are in the best interests of staff.
To be clear: vaccines work. They’ve eradicated ailments that have plagued humanity for hundreds and thousands of years. The COVID vaccine in particular helps to prevent the rise and spread of variants and largely protects against death and hospitalization, if infected. Importantly, the virus has been proven so far to be significantly less severe in vaccinated people, thereby freeing up crucial hospital bed and healthcare resources, like the time and energy of an exhausted healthcare workforce, if enough people are vaccinated. We strongly encourage all of our members, the other workers at the different hospitals we represent, and everyone who is not yet vaccinated but is able to get vaccinated, to do so as soon as possible, regardless of where they live or work. Vaccines save lives both directly and indirectly. A significant portion of our membership is already vaccinated. We have also identified there are very real reasons healthcare workers take serious issue with their employers’ mandating vaccination as a condition of employment. We cannot afford to force more healthcare workers out of this field of work.
It has been made clear to us that our members are frustrated, scared, justifiably skeptical, and worn down. They’ve worked hard over the last year and a half to combat this virus, all the while being called heroes by management, only for them to have their jobs threatened today over the COVID vaccine. The staffing situation in too many of our hospitals is worse than bad. The problem will be exacerbated when workers are forced out who aren’t comfortable being mandated to get a shot from administrations with a demonstrated lack of respect for worker well-being.
WFNHP members across the state have spoken and so we are compelled to act: we resolutely oppose the unilateral imposition of a COVID vaccine mandate at any facility where we represent workers. As representatives of and by these workers, our union has the right to collectively bargain with employers over changes in conditions related to the work environment. We expect these mandatory vaccination policies to be negotiated in good faith. After all, our members deserve it. It is literally the very least that can be done at this point.
For more information, contact: Jamie Lucas, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-621-3689.