The Snitch and the Shot

Is it time to change OSHA’s name to the Occupational Snitch and Harass Administration?

The new appellation would be fitting. The workplace watchdog agency is about to receive a new brief: become a hotline for vax grasses.

Under President Biden’s constitutionally dubious vaccine mandate for large employers, workers may be tasked with doing double duty: plying their normal trade and narking on their fellow employees for ducking the jab.

OSHA has yet to issue its exact rule on how it will monitor and enforce the vaccine requirement. But, our good, disinterested friends at National Public Radio speculate that OSHA bureaucrats will rely heavily on the drones whom they fleece biweekly for their own paychecks. “Given how small and chronically understaffed the agency is, the idea of snitching on someone in your office is actually not that far from reality,” reporter Andrea Hsu posits. The Department of Labor subagency has “1,850 federal and state inspectors covering some 8 million worksites nationwide.” That’s one inspector per about 4,320 workers.

So what’s an undermanned bureaucracy to do? Trust the two-faced, that’s what!

OSHA, of course, has long encouraged functionaries to dob on their paymasters for various occupational hazards. Some are understandable, even commendable, to all but the most principled of libertarians: window washers plied with faulty bosun chairs; colliers laboring in mines with poor ventilation; virologists operating on novel coronaviruses without the proper PPE or bio-containment measures in place (too soon for that last one?). But these are all examples of reasonable requirements businesses are expected to meet to keep their employees safe.

The Biden vax decree is destined to pit worker against worker, upending the traditional Marxian class conflict of proles versus capital.

Commiserating in the break room with cheap, bitter coffee in tiny Styrofoam cups over tightfisted, uncaring management is a labor rite. Now workers will be pressed to interrogate their colleagues on whether or not they’re, pardon the pandemic neologism, up to shot.

Privacy concerns aside, such an informal delation system is unnecessary, if only because of how immunization works. The mRNA vaccine is a defensive measure. It bolsters the recipient’s immune system by replicating the pathogenic effects of the COVID virion. The overall buttressing effect isn’t as robust as originally promised. But it more or less attenuates the worst symptoms of COVID-19 in most people.

If President Biden was upright and transparent about the handful of available COVID vaccines, he’d stick with his aphoristic message last spring: get vaccinated, ditch the mask, be protected. Instead, he’s reversed rhetorical course, insisting that the poked aren’t protected until everyone’s forearm is appropriately bandaged. The message is now muddled, paradoxical to the point of conflict inducing: I can only protect myself if I get spiked and force everyone around me to do the same.

Now that conflict is being imposed on the inner workings of business. And the worst part is, a not insignificant number of Americans are willing to squeal to the feds about their unvaxed fellow toilers. A viral tweet from a career counselor asking if $200,000 was enough to entice people to inform on their unvaccinated coworkers brought a depressing amount of affirmations. Some of the responses were facetious in a manner typical of online chattering: “I would report my coworkers for a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos”; “I’d report them to get out of work five minutes early”; “I’d report them for free.”

Despite the flip counter-offers, the overall spirit is of loathsome distrust. And it’s not just anon-avatared Twitter replies confirming the propensity of hirelings to tattle. A worker network app polled its members to see if they’d report uninoculated coworkers. Half responded in the positive. Calling up OSHA and telling a faceless desk-filler that the young man or woman wrapping burritos next to you, or the middle-class manager sharing your cubicle, the one you’ve shared jokes and private details of your life with, has a wanting immune system is now a moral imperative. Forget camaraderie, fellow-feeling, and the genuine human connection that comes with working in close proximity to others.

Anyone not displaying slavish devotion to Dr. Fauci is a potential mortal threat.

There’s supposed to be an informal omertà between workers, sealed by sympathy over a shared station. Scaring wage-earners with warnings of virus contraction and lung failure corrupts that bond, turning allies into enemies. The twisting of employee relations is done in service to a cynical incentive system to get more Americans vaccinated.

The Biden Administration has hit the vax ceiling with the appealing carrot—now it’s time for the stick. Except the compulsion is being contracted to the private sector, to one of what Chris Lasch called a “third place”: inter-employee relations that exist because of, but apart from, pure profit-mongering. The implanted fear will only ruin one of life’s social pleasantries.

As if retail and low-wage workers didn’t have enough Karens to worry about on the outside. Now they have to worry about the nosy Karens within their ranks, who, at any time, could ask to see the OSHA manager to complain that a coworker didn’t yet get the fifth Pfizer booster.

Seems like an awful lot of worry just to package Whoppers for minimum wage.

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Taylor Lewis

Taylor Lewis writes from Virginia.

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