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How Retail Organizations Are Reacting to Biden’s New Vaccine Mandate

Retailers and manufacturers are upbeat about President Biden’s Thursday announcement that certain businesses will be required to mandate vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests for employees.

The new mandate will impact about 80 million Americans and will be enforced by The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Federal employees and employees of all federal contractors will be required to get vaccinated and will not have to option to test.

In a Friday statement, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) voiced support for the mandate. AAFA has already achieved 100% vaccination across its staff.

“The only way to address the economic fallout from COVID-19 is to resolve the underlying health crisis that we have been dealing with for the past year-and-a-half,” said AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar in a statement. “These steps will go a long way to ensure that we are getting vaccines in arms, and that we can protect our workforce from this disease that has already cost the world so much.”

Edwin Egee, the VP of government relations and workforce development at the National Retail Federation, said in a statement to FN that the organization appreciates “the administration’s commitment to ensuring workplaces are safe despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.” Egee said the NRF will work with the Labor Department as the rule is enforced .

“The industry will continue to encourage Americans to voluntarily protect their own well-being and that of their families by getting vaccinated,” Egee said. “Several of our members have implemented policies mandating vaccinations for some or all of their employees, while others are offering monetary incentives and paid time off.”

The Business Roundtable, a lobbyist group whose members include CEOs from Nike, Walmart, Target, also voiced support for the mandate in a Thursday statement.

According to a recent survey from labor law practice Littler of more than 1,600 employers, employers in manufacturing and retail and hospitality were more hesitant about requiring vaccinations for employees than in other industries. According to the survey, 8% of manufacturing and 9% of retail and hospitality employers were requiring or planning to require vaccines, compared to 21% of all respondents. Reasons for hesitation included resistance from employees, impact on morale, and loss of staff.

Some organizations have not yet expressed full support for the mandate. In a public statement, the National Association of Manufacturers president and CEO Jay Timmons said he believes that the mandate should not “negatively impact the operations of manufacturers.”

“We look forward to working with the administration to ensure any vaccine requirements are structured in a way that does not negatively impact the operations of manufacturers that have been leading through the pandemic to keep Americans safe,” Timmons said. “It is important that undue compliance costs do not burden manufacturers, large and small alike.”

FN has also reached out to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) for a statement.

According Keith Wilkes, a partner and shareholder at the labor and employment law firm Hall Estill, employers will still be required to offer reasonable accommodation for qualifying employees who ask to opt out of the vaccine for religious or disability-based reasons.

“Absent falling into one of those two categories, unvaccinated private sector employees who fall under this new rule will have no choice but to obtain full vaccination if they wish to keep their current job,” Wilkes said.

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