Letter To The Editor: We Did It

By JAMIE KRETZ
Los Alamos

The LANL vaccine mandate is happening, it has been made clear to all employees, get vaccinated or choose to leave. Your religious claims will not stand in the way of safety, your documented medical exemptions can and will be denied at the discretion of Dr. Pasqualoni.

On Oct. 18 Triad will be able to declare we are 100% vaccinated (minus a hand full of medical exceptions, which will never be allowed to be on site). We will have conquered that dissenting last 10% that have held out! We did it!

And then what?

Do we get to declare COVID over? Do we get to get rid of the masks? Do we get to get rid of the social distancing?

LANL will be a safe place for all remaining employees to return to work on site, regular hours, full time, 2+ people to an office. Remote work and flexible schedules will no longer be needed.

We will finally get that culture change that Triad promised. Kicking out those people with 35 years of LANL work experience will give way for a breath of fresh air.

We will create work for the human resources department. Now they will have the opportunity to fill the jobs of the 10% of people who have chosen to leave in addition to focusing on their current job to hire thousands to staff our near-term critical missions.

Imagine on Oct. 25 you get to wait in traffic only to attempt to park in the already overly congested areas of the Pajarito corridor and TA-3. You finally find a spot and proceed to walk 1/2 a mile to your office where you squeeze in and set your things on your desk across the 6-foot spacing from your office mate. You now get to work on today’s challenge of how to accomplish work without your safety person, document control person, subject matter expert, technician, construction manager, or secretary who are not just gone for the day or week, but have decided their heath or beliefs were more important than a check from Triad. 

Your organization is already short staffed, there have been job openings for months and despite looking hard, qualified candidates have not been found. People will have to work the weekend and pick up extra tasks because when we said “let them leave” we didn’t realize that the 10% that were holding out were not the social loafers who didn’t contribute to the group they were part of our team and worked side by side with us and we depended on them. The workload will not diminish because they are gone, we still have commitments to our nation. You reach for the phone to try to call a co-worker who has been working way more than 40 hours a week remotely from their home for the past 18 months and always helps get the team out of a bind, only to find that they too were part of the choice.

Then will we be able to humanize these dissenters rather than villainize them? Then can we realize that for many this was not some flippant choice to be defiant or “stick it to the man?” Will we realize that some of our coworkers have been anguishing about this for a long time? 

Your coworker that has underlying heath conditions, is pregnant, or has had an allergic reaction to a vaccination could not get a medical exemption because the CDC says it is safe even though they and their primary care physician decided that the benefits of the vaccination did not outweigh the possible complications. Your coworker who had a severe case of COVID, that was documented through LANL, and has been tested through their doctor to demonstrate they have antibodies could not get a medical exemption. Your co-worker who is afraid of COVID and afraid of the vaccination and had been working at home effectively this entire time had to choose to just get over their crippling fear and do it or lose their job. Co-workers who, because of their strong moral beliefs, always stood up for what was right, even in the face of opposition to make sure that work was done correctly and safely had to choose between their beliefs and their job. Will you still not be able to understand why they could not or would not bend their moral code just that one time? 

In a few weeks we will be missing a few of our key team members who were truly given 2 bad choices. As vaccinated employees we will be left with the consequences of these mandates; with even bigger holes in our teams, choosing what work will get done and what we will have to put off due to senior leadership allowing no compromise on 100% compliance.

Will we really be safer? Will this really be the best course of action for the laboratory? Will we give ourselves a pat on the back when we say, “we did it?”

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