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Arizona: no vaccine mandate in the United States for state-regulated utilities

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Workers in Arizona state-regulated utilities cannot be fired for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a policy adopted by a state commission this this month.

The practical effect of the policy is unclear as it conflicts with federal immunization mandates for businesses which go into effect in January but still face multiple legal challenges, according to the Arizona Daily Star. reported.

The Arizona Corporation Commission approved it on Dec. 15, prohibiting state-regulated companies from developing, implementing, and enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies as a condition of employment.

Among other things, this could affect Tucson Electric Power, Arizona Public Service Co., TEP, and sister rural utility UniSource Energy Services.

Approved in a party line vote by the committee’s Republican majority, the policy targets the Biden administration’s mandate that private companies with 100 or more employees must ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID -19 or undergo regular testing. The original federal deadline of January 4 was recently extended to January 10.

TEP and other state-regulated utilities say they are closely monitoring the legal status of the warrant. But they don’t intend to make vaccination or testing mandatory, beyond current workplace safety protocols.

The policy was proposed by Republican Commissioners Justin Olson and Jim O’Connor, and supported by President Lea Marquez Peterson.

Olson said the federal mandate is “100% unconstitutional” and that the commission clearly has the power to regulate public service workplaces.

Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Anna Tovar voted against. Kennedy said it was irresponsible of the commission to pass it without consulting health experts as hospitals are inundated with resurgent COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Erik Bakken, vice president of systems operations for TEP and UniSource Energy Services, the sister rural power company, told the committee that the companies were doing everything possible to maintain flexibility as the status shifted. legal mandate for vaccination or testing.

Just over half of employees surveyed recently at the TEP and SIU said they were fully immunized, Bakken said. The investigation allowed workers not to declare their status, the company said in a subsequent statement. TEP and UES have a combined workforce of approximately 2,100 people.


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