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DeLaney: The Chamber of Commerce and doctors agree we need COVID-free workplaces

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INDIANAPOLIS - State Representative Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) represents Indiana House District 86, which encompasses parts of Pike and Washington townships in Indianapolis. What follows is an op-ed written by DeLaney discussing rushed efforts by Republicans to obstruct businesses that are implementing employee vaccine mandates: 

General Assembly Republicans are once again rejecting the rules of legislative process and the teachings of science.

How does a bill typically become a law? With committee hearings, public and expert input, there are at least three hearings on separate days in both the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives. 

Now the Republicans are rushing through a bill that ignores public health guidance and will cost employers millions of dollars in COVID-19 testing costs. 

Usually, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Republicans agree. Today, a rushed and flawed proposal designed to deter primary opposition has exposed fractures in this alliance. As the Chamber’s longtime spokesman Kevin Brinegar put it, this proposal “significantly discourages employers from requiring vaccinations, which in our view is contrary to what Indiana has been doing for months and months, spending millions of dollars to encourage people to get vaccinated, showing them the efficacy of that and the immunity factor it creates. If this preliminary draft is enacted, it would be very disruptive and expensive for employers that have already enacted mandates.” 

Employment in Indiana is at-will, and there’s a balance to be found between employer regulations and individual liberties of employees. With what we know about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is perfectly reasonable that employers want to keep their workplaces healthy and free of COVID. But placing the cost of facilitating COVID-19 testing on employers works to actively discourage employers from creating a safe environment for workers. If we want to be a state that attracts and keeps workforce talent, we shouldn’t scare off good workers by failing to ensure a safe workplace for them.  

We are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — infection numbers in Indiana have been steadily climbing since the beginning of November and will continue to do so as families gather over the holidays. Ending the public health emergency only fuels the spread of COVID misinformation and lends dangerous credence to the idea that note everyone needs to get vaccinated. Additionally, we are endangering pregnant women by suggesting there is risk in inoculation for them and including pregnancy as a workplace mandate exemption. As we heard in testimony from two doctors who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, pregnant individuals infected with COVID-19 are 22 times more likely to die from complications during their pregnancy and birth. As one of them said, “The language contained in the bill draft is exactly the type of language misinformation directly leading people to avoid getting vaccinated, thus putting themselves and their baby at risk of death.”

We have two choices before us: choose science and health or choose fear and misinformation. Every Indiana citizen should examine the cost of this legislation in their city, town or county. Is it in our interest to burden employers with more operation costs and potentially lose their presence in our communities? I think not. 

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