The Kroger grocery chain, which owns Ruler Foods, currently gives $100 to employees who get vaccinated and offers two weeks paid emergency leave to workers sickened by the coronavirus. But the company announced last week that those carrots will soon be joined by some sticks: Starting Jan. 1, the paid emergency leave will no longer be offered to unvaccinated workers who become infected. And salaried employees who refuse vaccination will see a $50 monthly surcharge added to their company health care plan.
These are reasonable business responses to unreasonable vaccine hesitation that is helping prolong the pandemic. With the Biden administration’s attempts at vaccine mandates encountering pushback in much of society and in court, these kinds of private-enterprise initiatives could prove crucial to managing the crisis.
President Joe Biden’s call for federal vaccination or testing requirements for health care workers, federal contractors and employees of large companies isn’t some radical new idea. Federal health and safety requirements tailored to specific kinds of workplaces have been around for generations, as have vaccine mandates in schools. Given that the virus has killed more Americans in the past two years than have died in combat in the nation’s entire history — and given that coronavirus vaccines have been proven safe and effective — requiring vaccination for those who want to work with medical patients or in large, crowded workplaces is a no-brainer.