The White House moved from carrot to stick Thursday after President Joe Biden introduced a rule that requires companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated or can produce negative Covid tests at least once a week.
Biden stated that the new requirements were a step in “fighting those blocking public health,” Thursday at a White House briefing. He noted that approximately 80 million Americans “have failed to get the shot.”
“We have tools to combat the virus … if we can come together as a country to use those tools,” Biden said.
An increasing number of Covid-19 cases have threatened children’s school return, degraded consumer confidence, rocked jobs markets, disrupted travel plans, delayed workers’ return to downtown offices, and caused more companies to lower their growth forecasts for rest of the year.
Biden’s multi-faceted approach to solving the problem includes three months of free at-cost kits from Kroger, Walmart, and Amazon. Medicaid beneficiaries will have full coverage for at-home tests. The federal government will also expand its free testing program to 10,000 pharmacies.
“We know vaccines, coupled with widespread and convenient testing, serve as powerful tools to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, keeping the U.S. economy open, and protecting America’s workforce,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said in a statement. “We’re proud to work with the Biden administration to increase access to affordable, high-quality, FDA-authorized tests, to keep us moving toward a full recovery.”
Biden praised the companies that have already implemented mandates, citing United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods “and even Fox News.”
United Airlines announced that all employees must be vaccinated by Sept. 25, although the majority of flight attendants and pilots have received the shots already. This week, the airline also said anyone refusing to be vaccinated for religious reasons would have to stay home until the pandemic “meaningfully recedes.”
Tyson Foods, a meat producer, announced last month that employees in its meatpacking plants would need to be vaccinated by November 1.
Amid a critical shortage of workers, many CEOs who are in favor of vaccinations have said they have been holding back on mandates out of fear that workers would quit for competitors that do not require employees be inoculated. This equation is simplified by Biden’s mandate.
“We’ve noticed a huge increase, just recently, in the share of postings that either mandate or request employees be vaccinated,” Julia Pollak, labor economist at the jobs platform ZipRecruiter, said last month, before the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine.
“When you see more major employers require vaccinations, that will probably set a trend for other employers to follow,” she said.
Joshua Bolten, President and CEO of Business Roundtable, is a group made up of chief executives of companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Home Depot. He said in a statement that the “Business Roundtable” welcomes the Biden Administration’s continued vigilance against COVID. America’s business leaders understand how crucial vaccination and testing are to defeating the pandemic.
CVS Health stated in a statement to NBC News, that it appreciates companies’ decision to enforce vaccination mandates and that “vaccinating more Americans clearly is the best way to defeat the pandemic.”
According to Reuters, a spokesperson for United Auto Workers stated that the union was “looking at the details and how it affects our over 700 employer contracts as well as our members.” Ray Curry, President of the UAW, stated last month that any mandates would have to be negotiated before they could be implemented.
Biden also issued an executive directive requiring federal workers and contractors to be inoculated. This rule will impact more than 2,000,000 employees.
Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement: “NTEU will monitor closely the implementation of this policy at the agencies where we represent employees to make sure that those with medical and religious exceptions are accommodated.”
He also stated: “NTEU members, like American society at large, will have differing reactions to the new policy. Some employees will disagree. Others will welcome the additional security that comes with knowing that all of their coworkers are vaccinated. Either way, the law is clear that employers, including the federal government, may implement a vaccination requirement for employees.”