Senate Majority Policy Committee Hears from Workers, Employers Hurt by Vaccine Mandates

Harrisburg – The impact of COVID-19 vaccine mandates on workers, employers and access to health care was the focus of a hearing today by the Senate Majority Policy Committee, chaired by Senator Mario Scavello (R-40).

The panel heard from workers who were terminated from jobs or had their salary and benefits denied, as well as employers struggling to fill jobs — many of them in critical health care fields.

“I’ve received numerous calls from constituents being forced to take a vaccine or voluntarily resign, as well as from businesses already facing a shortage of staff who say the impact of mandated vaccines will devastate them,” Scavello said. “We have a responsibility to explore the impacts of these mandates very closely.”

Pediatric emergency medicine physician and pediatric hospitalist Chaminie Wheeler told the panel she was fired from her hospital after going public with her concerns about vaccine mandates.

“Unfortunately, what has happened to our medical establishment is that physicians are not allowed to have difference of opinion or thought process,” Wheeler testified. “The table where ideas are exchanged, challenged and analyzed is considered a threat. If this trend continues in medicine, there will be no progress in medicine.”

Registered nurse Nicole Donley said she was fired from the hospital she worked at for six years after refusing the mandated vaccine.

“To fire any willing and able workers in this economic climate is absurd,” she said. “People are willing to sacrifice their jobs for the right to make their own health care decisions, the same right we give to all hospital patients, the right to deny any and all medical interventions. We should all be allowed that right as human beings and especially as Americans.”

Services for individuals with developmental disabilities will be harder to obtain because of vaccine mandates, according to John David Stoltzfus of human services provider Community Services Group.

“There are swaths of people that have left the overall health care industry due to already instituted vaccine mandates. Numbers from 2021 compared to 2020 show that the number of health care workers currently employed has dramatically decreased by almost 50%,” he testified. “I have personally been told by CSG leadership that they expect to see up to 46% of their staff leave if they are forced to mandate the vaccines.”

One of the largest human service providers in central Pennsylvania will face a shortage of workers if vaccines are mandated, according to Becky Aungst, president and CEO of Skills of Central PA, which provides support for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those recovering from mental health challenges.

“If vaccines are mandated, some portion of our staff will undoubtedly resign. Given the current staffing crisis, we cannot afford to lose a single staff member,” she testified.

The shortage of workers affects not only the health care sector, but all employers, said Stacey Header of Solar Innovations, a custom manufacturer of doors, windows and enclosures in Schuylkill County.

“The labor shortage was an issue prior to the pandemic and is now a complete crisis, not just for us, but for employers in all industries,” she said.

Vaccine mandates have shaken the airline industry, as well. United Airlines Pilot John Cronin testified that he lost his pay and benefits when he was granted a vaccine religious exemption.

“With all my years of service and all the knowledge and skills I acquired, which I could pass on to my co-pilots, I found it appalling they (UAL) would be so willing, almost eager, to kick me into the gutter,” Cronin said.

Captain Cronin noted that – even though airline air quality is better than average — unvaccinated UAL employees (but not passengers) are now forced to wear a N95 or KN 95 mask at work. He said United Airlines refused to provide the OSHA and manufacturers’ required medical examinations, training or fit testing, resulting in harm to employees.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry updated the committee on developments from Washington, D.C. A federal appeals court temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s new vaccine rules that would apply to private businesses with 100 or more employees, certain health care workers and federal contractors.

The committee took testimony from more than a dozen workers, employers and others.

“Whether you agree with mandated vaccinations or not, the fact remains people are genuinely worried that their constitutional rights are being infringed upon. These are concerns we cannot ignore,” Scavello said. “The purpose of this hearing was to make clear the effects of vaccine mandates on workers, employers and the health care system.”

Video of the hearing as well as written testimony can be found at SenatorScavello.com.

Contact: Christine Zubeck czubeck@pasen.gov (717) 787-6123