Retailers Raise Objections to Federal Vaccine Mandate

By Alan Wolf, YSN

The world’s largest retail trade association is pushing back against the Biden administration’s new rules regarding mandatory COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), which represents independent dealers, home goods and specialty stores, wholesalers, Internet retailers, and discount and department store chains, claims the emergency that prompted the vaccine mandate is overstated, and is taking the government to task for imposing “burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season.”

The new regulation, released yesterday, requires workers at private-sector companies with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or tested weekly. Companies that don’t comply can face fines of more than $13,000 per violation.

The directive, to be managed by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), goes into effect Jan. 4. In addition, unvaccinated employees will be required to wear face masks in the workplace beginning Dec. 5.

According to OSHA, many of the three quarters of a million Americans killed by COVID were workers who were primarily exposed to the virus at their jobs. The agency estimates that the mandate, which will affect 84 million citizens, will save thousands of lives and prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations.

“We must take action to implement this emergency temporary standard to contain the virus and protect people in the workplace against the grave danger of COVID-19,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said.

But in a letter to Walsh, NRF senior VP David French argued for a standard that is more feasible for employers to implement, and noted that retailers have already invested tens of billions of dollars to mitigate the spread of COVID over the past 17 months. He also questioned the threat level for workplace infection given the dramatic decline in cases, and expressed concern that the mandate will further exacerbate the current labor shortage.

“American retailers have prioritized and will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our employees and our customers,” French wrote. “The federal government should take into consideration the entirety of efforts made by private-sector employers, the growing levels of vaccinated workers, and the best practices retailers have deployed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers.”

Retailers are not alone in their OSHA objections. At least 11 states led by Republican governors are presently suing the Biden administration over vaccine mandates covering government contractors and private-sector employers.