Governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for certain workers causing controversy; many fear jobs are at stake

Connecticut

Conn. (WTNH) — First Student School Bus Driver Ashley Madore is fearful she will lose her job because she’s speaking up.

She is one of 80 speakers testifying against Governor Lamont’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate targetting certain workers.

The deadline to get vaccinated is Monday.

“I just know that it was said to me that disciplinary action could possibly be taken against me. It’s not about being against the vaccine, or for the vaccine, or being against testing, or for the testing. It’s about having the choice to do so,” Madore said.

The 17-member Republican Conservative Caucus requested the hearing.

State Representative Mike France, the Republican Chair of the Conservative Caucus, says Lamont’s mandate targets certain workers.

“We are saying either you take this shot, or you lose the ability to feed your family,” France said.

“In an economy that is not very robust… during a pandemic, you’re going to be firing teachers, nurses?” asked State Representative Craig Fishbein.

Madore says she’ll submit to weekly testing and masking, but says the rules of the road are vague.

If her results come in late, can she return to work? Will she be paid? Who is responsible for paying for testing?

Madore is exhausted.

“We’ve been through so much in this pandemic,” she said.

The Governor’s office says workers will not lose their jobs immediately on Monday.

“We are encouraging everyone to provide a little bit of flexibility in this first week, as they are getting test results back, getting paperwork processed,” said Commissioner Josh Geballe from the Department of Administrative Services.

Long-term care facilities could face a $20,000 fine per day for non-compliance. State funding for school districts may be put at risk.

Commissioner Geballe says the executive order offers weekly testing opt-out — something the federal mandate does not.

“That’s an option President Biden is not afforded, federal employees. They all have to be vaccinated with no testing options. So we’ve already provided a lot more flexibility.”

Madore says the union isn’t protecting members, adding those against the shot are being marginalized.

“It shouldn’t be like this. It’s all about choice,” she said.

A school bus driver shortage is linked to confusion over the mandate, jobs not being filled, and workers getting sick.

“First Student is working to resolve this issue. However, I do anticipate that we will continue to experience morning and afternoon delays for some of our students for the remainder of the week. Any disruption, especially one caused by transportation issues, is frustrating and unfortunate for our families and students,” Bristol Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Carbone told News 8.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senate Leaders told News 8 the following in a statement: “We all must ignore the lies around COVID, trust the science, and speak only to the facts.”

The Lamont administration says they anticipate transportation delays on Monday but say they have a plan in place to make sure every child gets to school.

News 8 reached out to First Group America, the parent company of First Student, to see if drivers will be disciplined for speaking out against the mandate. They have not responded to our request for comment.

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