Republican Josh Mandel peppers his Twitter account with photos of restaurant workers and other people he meets on the campaign trail for U.S. Senate.
Over the weekend, one such tweet landed a northwest Ohio brewery in hot water.
The former state treasurer visited Inside the Five in Perrysburg Friday and took a photo with a waitress who he said came to work sick because they were short-staffed. His tweet came as the delta variant takes hold across Ohio, leading to COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers not seen since the winter.
“These are the type of American workers that make our country strong,” Mandel said in the tweet.
Mandel’s post – which he also shared on Facebook – drew swift backlash from people attacking the brewery and chastising Mandel for publicizing information that could hurt the business. Management responded by sending the employee home to take a COVID-19 test, prompting Mandel to accuse an establishment he had just praised of not valuing its employees.
“While so many people are getting paid by the government to sit home and do nothing, Brianne muscled through feeling under the weather and came to work,” Mandel said in a statement. “She should be applauded for being a dedicated team player, not having herself and her brewery attacked by lazy woke liberals.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who is also running for Senate, blasted Mandel’s comments.
“If you were serious about celebrating workers, you’d join me in calling for higher wages paid time off,” Ryan tweeted. “Telling people to go to work sick – whether COVID or a cold – and then attacking small businesses to score political points is gross, Josh. Grow up.”
Inside the Five co-owner Chris Morris said employees are required to inform managers before their shift if they aren’t feeling well and can’t come in until they test negative for COVID-19. The waitress who met Mandel didn’t say anything because she believed allergies were the source of her nasal congestion, Morris said.
The employee was not fired.
“The worst part is that people have accused us of forcing our employees to work while sick,” Morris said. “That’s the furthest thing from the case. We’re extremely respectful of the situation that’s going on with the pandemic, and we make sure that employees are cared for.”
Inside the Five temporarily took down its Facebook and Instagram pages, and Morris said the brewery never had a Twitter account despite reports to the contrary.
As for Mandel? Before this happened, Morris said, the Senate candidate wasn’t on his radar.
“I had no idea who he was, to be honest with you,” Morris said. “We don’t do anything with politics. We don’t support any politician, no matter who they’re for.”
Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.