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Chief Springs and Fire & Irons Brewpub mandates employee vaccines

DAYTON-On August 13, employees of Chief Spring Pizzeria and Fire & Irons Brewpub received a mandate from owners Mike and Ann Spring to get the first dose of the COVID vaccination by August 31 or their “employment will end.” It went on to read they must be fully vaccinated by September 30 showing proof of vaccination or face the same consequences. The notice says clearly, “If you choose not to comply, you will forfeit your job and possibly your unemployment benefits.”

The only exception stated is if employees could not get scheduled, they could talk to the owners, or if they have a religious exemption or a signed doctor’s note specifically naming them as not recommended to receive the vaccination. The Springs stated on the notice their reasoning for the mandate. “We continue to be exposed to COVID-19. This new variant is more contagious, even younger children are getting COVID. We want you to be as safe as possible, as well as our customers...By you following the above steps you will ensure that is the case. You can help stop this virus by getting vaccinated and keep others from becoming victims and hurting our businesses. So, you can continue to get paid and have the benefits that come from being an employee.”

As the news of this circulated around the community, people had various responses when learning of this mandate. When asked, Walla Walla resident Phillip McKeen who is a Dayton native said, “Running a business isn’t easy. It takes a balanced understanding of the needs and wants of your customers and your staff. Walla Walla is now surging in cases, and it makes sense for local businesses to do whatever they can to maximize the safety of their staff and customers. I support Chief Spring’s businesses in their requirement for staff vaccinations while allowing exceptions for those staff for which the vaccine is not appropriate. I intend to visit at least one of their restaurants when I next come to town.”

Dayton resident Brendan Vance feels differently. “I 100% support the right to choose what you put or don’t put into your body. We should be able to retain the right to form our own opinions, to make our own choices and maintain our freedom. Just because our state is being governed by an unreasonable tyrannical leader doesn’t mean that any local business must follow suit. It is upsetting that any local business is requiring their employees to get an injection that won’t prevent them from getting or spreading COVID. At best, it lessens the symptoms when they contract the virus. Yet their employees who have been diligently serving our community this entire time are now required to get this so-called vaccine? In response to Chief Springs rule for their employees to be vaccinate or be fired, I fire Mike and Ann Springs from ever receiving a penny of my money again. I have spent thousands of dollars in your establishment that will now go towards other local businesses who support their employees’ beliefs and that actually deserve my money.”

When speaking with Mike Spring, he spoke for both himself and his wife Ann and how they wrestled with the decision for employees to be vaccinated to work at their establishments. “It’s been a hard decision because we don’t want to lose any employees, but I don’t want to lose any employees to COVID either.” Their view is that currently the vaccine may be the only way out of the pandemic and requiring the vaccine is doing something to help move in that direction while protecting staff and customers.

Questions surround the legality of mandating the experimental vaccine by private businesses. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEO) in a press release made on May 28 of this year, “Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations.”

Spring confided that they have been proactive in their response to the pandemic for staff, for the public and for business. “The implications of what the cost is on the business side is huge.” This includes the risk of needing to close due to COVID exposure. He says he wants to “keep our business open, keep the people we do have employed and paying their wage, paying the City and County taxes, help and support the community – we donate a lot of money to every kid sport, the fair–everything we can we try to support it out of our own pocket.” The reasons are personal too and Spring said he is more susceptible to illness getting into his lungs. But the main motivation for Spring is, “I don’t want one of my employees to get this and end up in the hospital. That would be heartbreaking for me.” He said 90-95% of their employees are fully vaccinated or are in the process. He believes that if everyone would get vaccinated, the pandemic wouldn’t exist, but assures they don’t plan to implement patron vaccine requirements.

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