Retailers want more time to comply with COVID-19 vaccine and testing protocols

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/FG Trade
Nov 10, 2021

Trade associations representing retailers are calling on the federal government to recalculate the timeline for implementation of new temporary COVID-19 vaccination and testing protocols for companies with 100 or more employees.

The groups, which have offered support for the goals of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), say that they have played important roles in safeguarding employees and the public from the virus. Their concern about the employer-based ETS is centered around timing and resources.

“We are deeply concerned about the timing for implementing the OSHA vaccine mandate during the most important season of the year for retailers and customers,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. “Our members are already facing workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions, in addition to the legal and practical challenges of implementing this ETS during the holiday season.”

Mr. Shay said that deadlines set in the program — December 6 to provide proof of vaccination status and January 4 to test unvaccinated workers — are “unworkable and virtually impossible.”

In a letter yesterday  to the Department of Labor and President Joe Biden, Mr. Shay said that most of the trade group’s members would not be able to acquire enough “reliable” COVID tests to meet the government’s deadline. NRF has asked the government to delay the mandates on its members until March 2022.

FMI and the National Grocers Association (NGA) each voiced concerns last week when the ETS was made public about the timing and the potential effects that implementation may have on the nation’s food supply.

Jennifer Hatcher, FMI’s chief public policy officer and senior vice president, government and public affairs, said the rules as written do not not balance key issues like a lack of testing availability for employers and the likelihood of significant workforce attrition due to the mandate, particularly among truck drivers. FMI believes the ETS will exacerbate an already existing shortage of transport and supply chain capacity, further slowing delivery times and driving up costs for consumers, retailers and manufacturers.”

Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO, said in a statement last week that the association and its members are supportive of the government’s vaccination goals but said that more flexibility is needed to make it work without negative repercussions. His comments on timing and repercussions echoed those of his peers at other trade groups.

NACS, which represents convenience store retailers, issued a release this morning that it was joining a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit against ETS. The group echoed those issues raised by other retailers objecting to the timeline.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should the federal government carve out exceptions to the ETS for the retail industry? Do you support NRF’s call for vaccination and testing mandates to be pushed back to March 2022?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The government should not mandate a specific date without ensuring the availability of the assets and materials needed to meet that date."
"Anyone working in retail, hospitality, or the restaurant industry knows full well that vaccinations have been available for the past six months."
"Would lawsuits from employees exposed to COVID at the workplace be a more compelling reason for following ETS?"

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8 Comments on "Retailers want more time to comply with COVID-19 vaccine and testing protocols"


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Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

The government should not mandate a specific date without ensuring the availability of the assets and materials needed to meet that date. Worker reluctance is not a reason to stall implementation.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

I’m of two minds here. Yes, the retail industry is dealing with labor shortages — like many other industries — and is headed into its peak selling season with unprecedented challenges simply getting goods onto shelves and customers out the door.

They don’t need another challenge right now — and yet, the data suggests that another COVID-19 spike is underway in cold weather states. The best chance to overcome a new wave of cases is to get more shots into arms faster, instead of kicking the can down the road. Retail businesses can hardly sustain another surge-driven interruption in store traffic.

Scott Norris
Guest

We’ve had a million excess deaths. Two million decided to retire early because stocks and real estate have been strong, and who needs to put up with the nonsense anymore? And hundreds of thousands of parents decided the lack and high cost of childcare, exacerbated by the pandemic (and compounded by deaths of hundreds of thousands of grandparents,) simply wasn’t worth the tradeoff and dropped out of the labor market. And of course we’ve cut off immigration because of disease fears and racism. The only way to start working our way out of endemic labor shortages is to get COVID-19 under control as fast as possible, and that means vaccination mandates. Any trade organization looking out for its greater good should be in full-throated support of moving as fast as possible, as strongly as possible.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I have no patience for anyone acting like this is a new challenge. As far as I am concerned EVERY retailer, large and small, should have been developing their own protocols for vaccines over the last six, eight, 10 months.

Practically every American in the country has had a multitude of vaccines. For diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis, measles, mumps and rubella, polio and chickenpox vaccines. There is no reasonable argument that COVID-19 should not be added to that list.

Any retailer who claims they are not ready, simply don’t want to do it.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Anyone working in retail, hospitality, or the restaurant industry knows full well that vaccinations have been available for the past six months. It is still a race against time and making exceptions for people who should know better does not seem to serve the public good.

Carlos Arambula
BrainTrust

No and no.

The pandemic is not new and is far from over, and it is precisely due to the expected surge in holiday traffic and labor shortages that we need safety rules. It’s not a legal or political issue, it’s a work health and safety issue.

At this stage in the course of the COVID pandemic, retailers know or should know of the risk exposure to their employees if health and safety precautions are not followed. Would lawsuits from employees exposed to COVID at the workplace be a more compelling reason for following ETS?

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

The mandate is problematical at best (is it even legal)? As for retailers objections: yes, I agree it may be impractical — though we need to consider it in the context of vaccines having been available for >6 months — but keep in mind that many will raise the same objection(s) whatever the deadline is.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

Retailers, especially small and medium ones have had plenty to struggle with for a long long time. This holiday season is an opportunity for them to finally get a bit closer to normalcy. I understand that restrictions are vital for a safer society, but these retailers are already dealing with labor shortages and supply chain interruptions, in addition to legal and practical difficulties. Retailers are not the perpetrators, but rather the victims of COVID-19.

Almost all retailers across the industry have vaccinated their permanent staff. However, many of them are recruiting temporary personnel to meet holiday access requirements. The federal government must consider time and resource restrictions and provide flexibility in the timeline as long as they follow CDC protocols in their day-to-day operations.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The government should not mandate a specific date without ensuring the availability of the assets and materials needed to meet that date."
"Anyone working in retail, hospitality, or the restaurant industry knows full well that vaccinations have been available for the past six months."
"Would lawsuits from employees exposed to COVID at the workplace be a more compelling reason for following ETS?"

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