Peaceful protest draws large crowd at LRS

Representative for District 4, Jeremy Haroldson supported the protest of Basin Electric Laramie River Station employees and carried a sign in solidarity for the workers who would lose their jobs if they didn’t get the mandated vaccination.

WHEATLAND – Somewhere around 85 protesters peacefully gathered at Basin Electric Laramie River Station near gate #1 last Friday from 2-4 p.m., where they called out to cars driving by and held up the multiple signs that were created voicing their displeasure.

The workers at the power plant just recently found out through an email that due to a federal order to mandate COVID vaccines for all U.S. companies who had over 100 employees, they were all subject to the order due to their size.

Although the federal order was issued from the White House last week, there was also an email sent out from the CEO of Basin Electric stating that they were willing to work with employees.

In an update as of press deadline, according to Reuters, “A U.S. federal appeals court issued a stay Saturday freezing the Biden administration's efforts to require workers at U.S. companies with at least 100 employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly, citing ‘grave statutory and constitutional’ issues with the rule. The ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit comes after numerous Republican-led states filed legal challenges against the new rule, which is set to take effect Jan. 4. The administration's various vaccine rules cover 100 million employees, about two-thirds of the U.S. workforce, according to the White House. Saturday's court order came in response to a joint petition from several businesses, advocacy groups and the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah. The rule is also facing separate legal challenges before other courts.”

 

The New York Times also published a report that said, “The stay, issued by a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana, doesn’t have an immediate impact. The first major deadline in the new rule is Dec. 5, when companies with at least 100 employees must require unvaccinated employees to wear masks indoors. Businesses have until Jan. 4 to mandate Covid vaccinations or start weekly testing of their workers. But Saturday’s move provided momentum for a wide coalition of opponents of the rule, who have argued that it is unconstitutional. A group of businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations and several states, including Louisiana and Texas, had filed a petition Friday with the court, arguing that the administration had overstepped its authority. It was unclear whether the stay would be a procedural blip for the Biden administration or the first step in the unwinding of the mandate.”

 

The workers who were gathered last Friday all said that they loved their jobs but were afraid they would lose them if they talked openly to the media. Many came forth anonymously with their signs and comments.

 

Representative for District 4, Jeremy Haroldson was on hand to support the protest and to carry a sign in solidarity for the workers who were given a choice of taking the mandated vaccine or losing their jobs.

 

“The first time I heard about it (the protest) two weeks ago after the Dry Forks protest,” Haroldson said. “I was asked to be here and I said, ‘absolutely, I love supporting my community.’ All of this is Basin Electric owned, so Dry Forks and LRS are protesting the vaccine mandate because they knew it was coming down.”

 

The question in any protest is always be, “will it make any difference?”

 

“I think everything counts,” Haroldson said. “I think at this point and time we are creating a culture by doing stuff like this while we are saying we are not anti-vax, we’re anti mandate. This isn’t about vaccination; this is about freedom. This is about freedom lost and if we let them do this, the next thing they are going to do is tell you what you can and cannot do with your kids or tell you what side of the street you get to walk on.”

 

A person who again, respectfully requested to stay anonymous said, “Our company has recently informed us that when they sign their next federal contract, they will be mandating the Covid 19 vaccine for all employees. They have stated that it will be mandatory at that time. I feel that this (protest) is a necessary and important step to demonstrate that this is an intended breach of our freedoms as Americans. Additionally that companies should never have the power to terminate workers due to vaccine non-compliance. We believe it should be the choice of each individual, whether or not to receive a vaccine. We want the company to know we do not agree that we do not stand for this intended over reach of their authority. We want them to see that we will stand up for our rights, and fight a good fight to try to protect them. We feel that it is imperative that we come together and stand up for what is right, but most importantly to preserve our freedom of choice. This is strictly about preserving the freedom to CHOOSE, and to show our company that we believe they have NO place in these choices. No one’s job should ever be on the line for making a personal medical decision.”

 

According to Haroldson, the problem is that the feds have preempted it with a financial lynchpin called funding and that’s how they are keeping people in line and other states from creating laws declaring no mandates.

 

Becker’s Hospital Review said, “A dozen governors have signed legislation restricting COVID-19 vaccine mandates in their states.”

This is the list that Becker’s has published as of October 12:

“Arizona: On April 19, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey issued an order prohibiting the state from requiring people to prove their COVID-19 vaccination status to enter a business, building or area or to receive a public service. However, health care institutions can request COVID-19 vaccination status documentation of patients, residents, employees or visitors.

“On June 30, Mr. Ducey signed a bill requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances that prevent the employee from getting the COVID-19 vaccine unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship to the operation of the business. The bill allows health care institutions to require employees to be vaccinated.

“Arkansas: On April 28, the state enacted a bill prohibiting the state, political subdivisions of the state or public officials from mandating vaccination as a condition of employment. These agencies may not discriminate against or coerce individuals who refuse a COVID-19 vaccine by withholding opportunities for career advancement, wage increases or insurance discounts.

“Georgia: On May 25, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said that no state agency can require proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment by the state, conducting business with the state or enjoying other rights provided by the state.

“Florida: On April 2, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said businesses are prohibited from requiring customers to verify a COVID-19 vaccination status or post-transmission recovery to gain access to the business. Effective Sept. 16, the state will give $5,000 fines to any public or private entity that requires proof of vaccination, News 4 Jax reported. Since asking for proof of vaccination is part of a vaccine mandate, some companies may pay millions of dollars in fines.

“Indiana: On April 29, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law prohibiting state or local governments from requiring anyone, including employees, to show proof of vaccination.

“Montana: On May 7, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill that prohibits discrimination based on vaccination status. This includes prohibiting an employer or government entity to refuse employment to a person or to discriminate against a person in compensation or in a term, condition or privilege of employment based on the person's vaccination status. Additionally, an individual may not be required to receive any vaccine whose use is allowed under an emergency use authorization or any vaccine undergoing safety trials.

“New Hampshire: On July 26, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill stating that employers may only mandate immunization as a condition of employment when a "direct threat" exists. A "direct threat" is defined as a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. State hospitals are exempt from the mandate

“North Dakota: On May 7, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill prohibiting state government entities from requiring a private business to obtain documentation to verify an individual's vaccination status. The bill exempts health care organizations from the ban.

“Oklahoma: On May 28, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an order prohibiting state agencies from requiring that people show proof of vaccination to enter public buildings. The order doesn't apply to employees working in patient-facing settings.

“Tennessee: On May 25, Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that prohibits a state agency, department or political subdivision from mandating COVID-19 vaccines.

“Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Oct. 11 banning any entity in the state, including private employers, from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The order states that "no entity in Texas" can enforce vaccination against anyone, including an employee or consumer, who objects "for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.

“Utah: On March 16, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill that prohibits state agencies from requiring people to get a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. However, the bill does not apply to employees who work in a medical setting and are required to receive vaccinations to perform the assigned duties and responsibilities of the job.”

According to Haroldson, Wyoming was one vote away from becoming a state that would ban the mandates.

“One vote,” he said. “We get no protection. We saw 15-15 in the Senate and we needed 16 to pass it. The Senate killed 1003 which would have been vaccine mandates and they killed 1001 which would have been the guidelines for all the private business mandates. (Wyoming Governor) Mark Gordon’s stand on this is that we will sue the federal government when they cross the line but he does not want anything codified that would actually do anything here.

In large corporation settings, protests and walking off jobs that are very specialized actually changed the minds of the corporate powers that be. Workers at Basin Electric are not sure if they can do the same thing here.

“I would like to think we can make a difference,” one unidentified worker said. “But when it comes down to it, especially in a small town with this being the only real source of income for a lot of people here, it’s hard to get people to come to that and whether they will actually leave their job. I’d like to hope people would do that, but I don’t know if we have the numbers. I don’t care if people choose to get vaccinated, it’s just that it should be a choice.”

Another worker fearing for his job if he spoke from his heart said, “What’s going to happen when hundreds of years of experience leave these facilities? You can forget about the availability they’ve become accustomed to and the reliability of electricity in the area when you’ve got people who aren’t trained to do these jobs. Also, those who are available are in a very small window here in Wyoming would need to be vaccinated as a condition of being hired. When you leave, you have a lot of experience leaving with it. So, I would say, start chopping firewood now and get ready for a cold winter because it’s going to get cold. When they shut down an airline, people don’t go on vacation, when you shut down a power plant you’re going to freeze.”

In a response to the protest and the mandates, Joan Dietz, communications manager for Basin Electric Power Cooperative said, “Basin Electric does not currently have a vaccine mandate and we are watching the situation very closely. We are certainly concerned about how a mandate may impact our workforce and have been working closely with our legal counsel, union leadership, and others to better understand how we would need to comply with the mandate. We have looked closely at the OSHA ruling for employers of over 100 employees, which we certainly fall under, as well as the Federal Contractor rule.

 

We have some of the best employees in the industry and are very aware of their concerns. We have offered vaccination clinics to our employees since the vaccine became available and will continue to do so. We will also continue to communicate with them as more information becomes available.”

Representative for District 4, Jeremy Haroldson supported the protest of Basin Electric Laramie River Station employees and carried a sign in solidarity for the workers who would lose their jobs if they didn’t get the mandated vaccination.

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