UPDATE: Hours after this article was published, Gov. Greg Abbott added to the Texas Legislature’s to-do list creating legislation “establishing no entity in Texas can compel” anyone who objects to receive a COVID–19 vaccination. He has also issued an executive order to that effect. Abbott’s executive orders banning mask mandates are still being contested by local officials.
As more Americans go on strike in protest of employer vaccine mandates pushed by the Biden-Harris administration, Texas’ governor indicated on Sunday that he’s relying on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop these mandates. A single mom is asking him to act.
Sheree Flanagan, a single mother of two in North Texas, is being required to get a COVID-19 vaccination under threat of losing her employment. She has until December to get two injections. For privacy reasons, the name of her employer is being withheld. “I work for defense [contractors],” she told Texas Scorecard. “They’re all following suit.”
Last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring such mandates from all government contractors, and stated a federal rule was being developed that would require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines.
Flanagan described how she felt when she was notified of her company’s vaccine mandate. “I actually just felt sick. I couldn’t sleep. I still haven’t really been able to sleep well.” She plans to file for a religious exemption. “It’s going against everything that I want to do. It’s going against my beliefs,” she said. “Taking a vaccine is [an] option, it shouldn’t be a mandate.”
Switching jobs isn’t a simple solution for Flanagan, as she’d have to change careers. “This is all I’ve been doing for 22 years,” she said. “I just can’t pick a career change at 42 years old when I have two small kids, especially the way the economy is right now with everything going on.”
Flanagan said her co-workers feel the same way and have protested the mandate. “It’s just very, very disheartening to have to make a choice like this.”
During the regular session of the Texas Legislature this year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a prohibition on vaccine passports. However, it didn’t address employer vaccine mandates. Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) haven’t used their power to accelerate legislation addressing this loophole in the current special session. Last week, the Texas Republican Party and several Republican activists and lawmakers asked Abbott to put banning such mandates on the Legislature’s to-do list.
Flanagan joined them in asking Abbott to act. “I would ask him to block the federal mandate on defense and contractors. … I would ask him to do everything he could [to] stand up for the people of Texas and to protect us.” When asked if she felt he had done a good enough job defending her so far, Flanagan was short. “No, not at all.”
Sunday evening, Abbott spoke at First Baptist Dallas. A Facebook livestream captured his response when asked about employer vaccine mandates. He didn’t mention if he’d have the legislature act this session, or in future special sessions. He instead referenced earlier executive orders he’d given, the vaccine passport prohibition passed earlier this year, and that his strategy going forward is to fight in the courts. “This is going to be determined by two high courts: one is the high court of the State of Texas, but the other is going to be the [U.S.] Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, Texans like Flanagan remain under threat.
Thousands of Southwest Airlines flights have been cancelled over the weekend as many employees are reportedly calling in sick in protest of of their employer vaccine mandate. Citizen-organization Texas Freedom Coalition is working with others for a statewide “walkout & rally” on October 20.