Every day I hear from law enforcement officers, first responders, airline personnel, healthcare professionals, and retail workers in the Volunteer State who are facing an impossible choice: either comply with the Biden administration’s sweeping vaccine mandate or lose their livelihood.

President Biden’s recent wave of vaccine mandates landed amid a dire labor and supply chain crisis. In August 2021, the U.S. economy had a shocking 10.4 million open jobs.

The number of unfilled American manufacturing jobs remains more than double pre-pandemic levels, with 870,000 vacant positions. In retail, the 350,000 missing workers are expected to cost companies $223 billion by the holiday season.

Businesses are desperate for workers, and these open jobs translate directly to empty shelves and rising prices. As families pay more to shop at picked-over stores, President Biden should be doing everything possible to find a solution. Instead, the administration’s plan to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is forcing millions of Americans out of work.

Although several of the vaccines developed to combat COVID-19 have proven to be safe and effective, the federal government has no business mandating vaccinations for individuals or forcing compliance on private companies.

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is a personal medical decision. Americans must be free to make informed decisions about their health, but Biden’s one-size-fits-all order infringes on those freedoms and inserts federal authority where it doesn’t belong: between a patient and their doctor.

Throughout the pandemic, our essential workers showed up to keep America running. They stocked grocery store shelves, drove trucks across the country, kept our planes flying, provided lifesaving medical care, and protected our communities, all while facing unknown risks. Now, they are being told their sacrifice wasn’t enough.

No American — especially not our nation’s essential workers — should face the ultimatum of taking a jab or losing their job.

We cannot count on the White House to advocate for Tennesseans’ best interests, but we can stop it from destroying lives and livelihoods with unconstitutional power plays.

Tennesseans know the president’s vaccine mandates will do irreparable damage to the supply chain and all but destroy the already failing labor market. It’s time for President Biden to listen to the American people and stop punishing our essential workers.

Marsha Blackburn is the senior U.S. senator from Tennessee.

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