MADISON, Wis. — A Republican-authored proposal would let Wisconsinites quit their job and still draw unemployment benefits if their employer requires the COVID-19 vaccine or proof of vaccination.
Wisconsin is an employment-at-will state, which means if someone is fired or quits their job, they are ineligible for unemployment benefits, at least for a while.
That worries State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), who said getting vaccinated should be left up to the individual, not government bureaucrats or employers.
Stroebel's bill would carve out an exception allowing someone who gets fired or voluntarily quits because their employer requires the COVID-19 vaccine to collect benefits.
The Main Street Alliance, which represents about a hundred businesses across the state, supported giving workers enhanced unemployment benefits, but that's where they draw the line.
“Somebody should have the right to quit their job if that's what they choose to do, but it doesn't mean they should be able to collect unemployment insurance, costing businesses, costing taxpayers extra money, ultimately making us less safe by having fewer people vaccinated,” Shawn Phetteplace, Wisconsin State Manager for the Main Street Alliance, said.
Though Stroebel's bill was circulated for co-sponsors weeks before the latest mandate from the Biden administration, he calls the latest requirement on businesses with more than 100 workers unenforceable and unconstitutional.
“In a sane world, this unlawful diktat would never be issued, but we’ve been living in anything but a sane world for the past year-and-a-half,” Stroebel said in a statement.
At the end of July, Assembly Republicans failed an attempt to override Gov. Tony Evers' veto of a bill that would have ended $300 a week in federal unemployment aid.
“We really think it's fairly hypocritical that, over the course of the last six months, many folks were calling to end enhanced UI, enhanced unemployment insurance, that's already happened,” Phetteplace said. “We're going to see that's not the major contributor.”
Phetteplace is confident ending those benefits sooner wouldn't have made a difference and said issues like child care and a living wage played bigger roles that led to a workforce shortage.
He's also just as confident this latest Republican proposal won't hurt the workforce either.
“It's not going to become law,” Phetteplace said. “The governor is going to veto it.”
Phetteplace likely isn't wrong.
This proposal has been introduced and referred to standing committees in both chambers, so the next step is scheduling a public hearing.
However, if the bill does end up on the governor's desk, it seems to be all but dead on arrival.
Last month, a spokesperson for the governor tweeted that Evers would veto such a bill.
It was a fairly rare move since the governor's office doesn't often make an outright pledge to veto a proposal.