Late last week, the national retailer Costco announced that starting today, May 4, you could not go into a one of their stores without wearing a mask. This made Costco the first national chain to enact this kind of measure. In announcing the mask requirement, Costco said they were doing it to protect both shoppers and their employees. (Costco also announced limits on the amount of meat customers could buy.)
As I write this, Costco stores have yet to open, but you can count on one thing happening for sure. A potential customer without a mask will try to get into the store, loudly complaining about their Constitutional right to enter the store mask-less. This being America, one or more of these people may pull on a gun on anyone standing near the front of the store telling people they can’t enter unless masked. (It’s already happened in Ohio involving other stores.)
I’m sorry to inform these “good and patriotic” Americans but they DO NOT have a Constitutional right to go into Costco without a mask if Costco says they must. No right. Nada, Zippo, Zilch. Rein.
Costco is a private business, and as such can decide to do whatever the hell it wants to do. It could make a rule it will only allow customers to enter if they are wearing a clown nose. (My guess is that this would hurt business and so it’s unlikely.)
This is yet another case of Constitutional Stupidity, a condition that affects too many Americans particularly those on the right. It is the belief that you can do or say anything you want to in America and there will be no consequences. While it is true that you can do and say anything in America (if it’s legal), consequences are a WHOLE different issue.
I‘m a naturalized US citizen. In order to achieve citizenship, I had to study the heck out of the Constitution, US history and the way governments work at all levels. They really do quiz you on this stuff at your interview and they don’t only ask softball questions.
Like many other naturalized citizens, I ended up knowing a lot more about this stuff than the average American who can barely remember studying it in high school. What they do remember has been twisted in weird ways by watching too much Fox News or listening too frequently to Rush Limbaugh.
Here’s how it works (for those people who believe they have a Constitutional right to not wear a mask in Costco).
You have the right to unfettered political speech, to petition the government or to peacefully assemble (as the protesters in Michigan or elsewhere did) without the fear that (like in Russia or Iran) the secret police will show up at your door in the middle of the night and take you away, never to be seen by your family again.
You have the right to protest a government action. People who complained that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order for everyone to wear a mask out in public violated their rights may have had a point, which is why he probably rescinded it. Sometimes these protests don’t achieve the desired result as in Michigan (Gov. Whitmer basically ignored them), but people still have the right to protest.
However, if your boss decides that this speech or action is a deterrent to his or her business, you could find yourself out on your ear. You can sue them for wrongful dismissal, but in a suit of this kind your boss has a chance to show what they did was lawful, depending on your terms of employment or state/federal laws. But there are very few protections for workers.
While the government can’t throw you in jail for saying President Trump is a lying, misogynist, racist, phony creep, or stop you from going to the Michigan legislature with your AR-15 to protest, if your employer depended on federal government for work, for instance, they tell could you to stifle it.
At that point, the choice is yours. You can continue to protest, even if it costs you your job or your company business. Or even risk arrest if you push the point too far on private property, like a Costco store. Or you can shop at a store other than Costco that does not require a facemask and take your chances with COVID-19. Many people will.
But private business are not subject to many of the same restrictions that any level of government is. So yes, Costco can tell you that you cannot enter their store without a mask, and they are NOT violating your Constitutional rights.