Bakersfield

Kern Co. swipes at Calif. bill with vaccine mandate for all public, private employees

Tuesday, the Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a letter in opposition to a proposed state law that would require all public and private employees, as well as independent contractors, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Assembly Bill 1993, authored by four Democrats, was introduced to the Legislature last month and is scheduled to be heard in committee on March 13. 

While AB 1993 would establish an exemption rule to the vaccination requirement, the “valid exemption” definition would be left up to the discretion of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). 

“The vaccines have undoubtedly helped protect millions of people, and there are surely others who could benefit from obtaining this treatment. However, imposing draconian and overreaching policies that compel employers and their employees to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status will undoubtedly sow more division within our communities and distrust of our government, rather than promote unity and the public’s health,” the letter reads. 

“As Californians earnestly press onward to return to normalcy, the State Legislature should be doing more to accelerate economic recovery and assure our businesses continue to rebound from the pandemic rather than penalize hardworking Californians with additional economic burdens and constraints.” 

In the letter, the county also took issue with handing over the reigns to Cal/OSHA to determine what quantifies an exemption. 

“Furthermore, allowing the state bureaucracy to define what is and is not a ‘valid exemption’ undermines the principle of self-determination and invokes a sense of arrogance and disconnect by our elected officials towards every Californian’s inalienable right to make their own health decisions and observe and practice any and all religious beliefs they see fit to guide their day-to-day lives.” 

Over 100 employees transferring from Adventist Health hospitals in the Golden Empire

Separately, the board received a letter revealing that 133 employees at Adventist Health hospitals in Kern County will not work for the health care provider anymore.

While the letter – which served as an official notice under the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act – said the employees are being laid off, Adventist Health clarified that the employees are transferring to Advanced Building Maintenance (ABM).

Adventist Health told The Sun that transferring those employees – who provided housekeeping services – to another partner will better serve patients and will provide training and certification opportunities for the workers.

No positions were eliminated with the transfer. All employees were offered their same jobs, pay rates and benefit packages and learned about the transition at a series of town hall meetings.

Adventist Health said all employees who are working 37.5-hour weeks will have an opportunity to increase to a full 40-hour week with the new deal.

“As we have seen throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, our housekeeping associates remain part of our family and important team members in the safety and quality for all patients, caregivers and visitors,” said Misty Cantrell, operations executive for Adventist Health Kern County, in a statement.

“The valuable service this team provides to Adventist Health will continue without interruption.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.