President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses that employ 100 or more employees is getting mixed reviews.
Some business advocacy groups see it as a necessary step in ensuring workers’ safety on the job while others see it as overly burdensome, especially in the face of widespread labor shortages leading into the holiday season.
The mandate will take effect on Jan. 4, when some 84 million employees who the rule applies to will either have to be fully vaccinated or submit weekly COVID-19 tests to their employer and wear a face mask at work. It will be enforced through an emergency rule developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
Nearly 70% of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s database.
Grocery-store workers have the highest share of unvaccinated people (45%) among all industries, according to a Harris Poll’s COVID-19 survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 22-24. The technology sector has the highest share of vaccinated workers, 54%.
“‘Too many essential and frontline workers’ lives continue to be on the line in this pandemic, and having a standard to protect workers across the board is critical.’”
If an employee isn’t fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 and refuses to submit weekly tests, their employer must fire them or face a nearly $14,000 maximum penalty per violation.
That’s “a necessary win for workers,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents some 60,000 members.
“Too many essential and frontline workers’ lives continue to be on the line in this pandemic, and having a standard to protect workers across the board is critical,” Appelbaum said in a statement Thursday. These workers “under the last administration were left on the line unprotected,” he added.
But forcing employers to lay off employees “will exacerbate the worst labor shortage in recorded history,” said Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the Job Creators Network, a conservative small business advocacy group.
Biden said Thursday that “there have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements.”
“‘The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate is clearly illegal and will have a devastating impact on our small business community and our entire economy.’”
“The mandate also adds a new expense for businesses in the form of the costs associated with employee vaccination-status tracking and required paid time off for employee vaccination,” Ortiz said in a statement.
“The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate is clearly illegal and will have a devastating impact on our small business community and our entire economy,” added Ortiz, who announced that JCN filed a lawsuit to appeal the mandate on Thursday.
The timing of the mandate, directly after the holiday season, is particularly troublesome, said David French, senior vice president for government relations at The National Retail Federation, a trade group.
Even though many retailers have implemented their own vaccine mandates and increased health and safety measures during pandemic, “the Biden administration has chosen to declare an ‘emergency’ and impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season,” he said.