The West Chester Borough Council continues to enact mandates that epitomize government overreach. Now, they are also denying hard-working Borough staff the opportunity for lucrative employment.
On Oct. 20, 2021, the Council voted unanimously to mandate the Covid-19 vaccine as a condition of employment for all Borough employees. Most municipalities have refrained from this draconian step, including Chester County. The Borough employs a total of 126 staff, including 43 police officers who are members of the Brotherhood of West Chester Police union and 40 staff from public works, dispatch, and parking who are members of the AFSCME union.
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When the Council voted to approve the vaccine requirement, they were aware of objections from both staff and unions. The contract between the Brotherhood of West Chester Police and the Borough requires arbitration for this type of change in employment conditions, and Council knew they would need to complete that process before full implementation of the mandate. Therefore, on Dec. 31, any non-police union staff who had not provided documentation of vaccination was placed on unpaid administrative leave for 30 days. There are currently five Borough staff on unpaid leave, and they will be terminated on Jan. 31 if they fail to present proof of vaccination. It is unknown how many police officers will fall into the same category after the completion of the arbitration process.
At the October Council meeting, I stated my objections to the mandate and voiced my concern about the expense of defending this requirement. One council member responded that the mandate would actually save money because employees would not get as sick, and the medical insurance costs would drop. When I requested for the legal expenses related to the vaccine mandate, I was instructed to submit a Right to Know request. Through that request, I learned that the Borough had spent $14,500 in legal fees from September through Nov. 11, and the arbitration process had not even begun yet. With over $14,000 spent in two months, it seems reasonable to estimate that legal fees could easily exceed $50,000, especially during the arbitration process.
For a Borough that needed to cut costs, programs, and capital projects to balance the budget, it is simply irresponsible to waste taxpayers’ dollars to require a vaccine. This mandate is reminiscent of a similar one passed in the fall of 2020, when residents were told they could not have more than ten people in their homes at one time and they were required to wear cloth masks while outside. Both offenses carried up to a $300 fine. While that mandate represented government overreach, those bothered by it simply ignored it because no one was actually enforcing it, and it expired after 90 days. It amounted to nothing more than political theatre.
It is imperative that we end this level of government overreach. How many freedoms will be taken away from our Borough residents before it goes too far?
That political stunt in 2020 paved the way for a new move to take away individual rights and freedoms. With this vaccine mandate, hard-working employees are going to be denied the right to support their families and put food on their tables, and the taxpayers of West Chester are going to foot the bill for the Council’s “reign of error.”
Earlier this month, three new Council members were sworn into office. It is my sincere hope that they will recognize the error of this decision and work to reverse it. The new Council can vote to end the mandate, allow everyone to get back to work, and save thousands of dollars in the process. It is imperative that we end this level of government overreach. How many freedoms will be taken away from our Borough residents before it goes too far? Council crossed the line last year, and it is only getting worse. When will the reign of error end?
Beth Ann Rosica is a member of the Chester County Libertarian Committee and a former candidate for Mayor of West Chester Borough.