COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Two major Ohio business groups on Tuesday came out in opposition to pending GOP legislation in the Ohio House that would prohibit employers, either public or private, from requiring employees to receive vaccinations.
The bill also would prevent workers from being fired as a result of refusing to get vaccinated and allow them to sue their employers if they felt their rights had been violated under the law.
The measure before the Republican-controlled House Health Committee has attracted multiple opponents of COVID-19 vaccines but does not mention the coronavirus. Instead, it addresses mandatory requirements for all vaccines, such as for the flu.
Representatives of both the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association testified against the bill Tuesday.
The chamber “strongly believes that employers should have the freedom to operate their businesses, to make decisions about protecting their workforce, and to develop the health and safety policies and practices that meet the needs of their individual workplaces,” said Keith Lake, vice president of Government Affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
The bill is also inconsistent with other legislation approved over the years that allows businesses to manage their workplaces free of government interference, such as deciding whether to allow concealed weapons on their property, Lake said.
Business owner Ross McGregor, speaking for the manufacturing association, told the committee it's his prerogative to control what happens at his factory.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Gross, a Republican from West Chester in southwestern Ohio, asked McGregor if he believed that his “freedom supersedes the individual freedoms of the people who enter into your facility?”
McGregor told her, “The short answer is yes.”
"I offer employment. I do not mandate it. I offer it," added McGregor, owner of Springfield-based manufacturer Pentaflex and a former Republican House representative. “It is up to an individual to decide whether they wish to accept my offer of employment.”
The legislation also strengthens notices that schools must provide parents about exemptions they can seek against having their children vaccinated. In addition, the bill would repeal a state law requiring college students to disclose whether they’ve been vaccinated against hepatitis B and meningococcal meningitis.
The Health Committee heard testimony Tuesday from multiple other opponents of the bill. The committee is expected to consider changes to the legislation in upcoming hearings, said Health Committee Chairman Scott Lipps, a Republican from Franklin in southwestern Ohio.
In addition to the business groups' opposition, the Ohio bill is opposed by numerous hospitals, state associations of doctors and nurses, and other health care groups.
Hundreds of people supporting the Ohio bill have provided written testimony or traveled to the Statehouse to testify in favor.
Similar bills have been introduced nationwide, though the Ohio legislation appears to go further in covering more vaccines than just the one for COVID-19.