Indeed, some of the nation’s largest companies are already requiring their own employees to get vaccinated, including Microsoft, United Airlines, Tyson Foods, and CVS Health.
Bolten signed off saying that the roundtable “looks forward” to continuing to work with the Biden administration “to defeat the pandemic.” That may be standard corporate etiquette but, given the circumstances, the comity was notable.
Biden’s new rule will require large businesses with more than 100 employees to either vaccinate their workforce or develop weekly testing regimens. It will cover some 80 million private sector U.S. workers, according to the White House.
The National Association of Manufacturers sounded a similar note to the Business Roundtable, tying vaccinations directly to an economic recovery.
“Getting all eligible Americans vaccinated will, first and foremost, reduce hospitalizations and save lives,” said Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “But it is also an economic imperative in that our recovery and quality of life depend on our ability to end this pandemic.”
Republicans have predictably erupted over Biden’s new vaccine requirements. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called the imposition on American businesses “cruel and burdensome” while Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey accused the Biden administration of “hammering down on private businesses.”
But John Challenger, CEO of outplacement services company Challenger Gray & Christmas, told CNN that while some companies will surely challenge the mandate, others are just as surely relieved.
“One of the most difficult problems for companies to tackle during this pandemic, among many, was the ever-changing and sometimes conflicting directives from local, state, and federal agencies,” Challenger said.
Biden’s order will not only provide uniformity for large companies, it gets them out of having to pick sides in a no-win political debate. That’s especially helpful in an economic climate where labor is in short supply and companies are often competing for the same talent. Now company leaders don’t have to fear that implementing a vaccine mandate will put them at a competitive disadvantage.
One of the biggest concerns from some business sectors was how the new rule would be implemented and enforced.
Geoff Freeman, president of the Consumer Brands Association, called for “immediate clarification” about how companies would verify employee vaccination status, among other things. The trade association represents about 2,000 packaged-goods companies such as General Mills and Coca-Cola.
“As with other mandates, the devil is in the details,” Freeman said in a statement. “Without additional clarification for the business community, employee anxieties and questions will multiply.”
The statement cited a survey last summer of packaged-goods companies finding that 64% said “conflicting guidance from federal, state and local governments was problematic for their business”—exactly as Challenger had indicated.
But even with the caveats, the association seemed willing and perhaps even eager to work toward compliance.
“Our country’s ability to increase vaccination rates hinges on federal agencies offering clear, detailed and timely guidance in hours, not weeks,” said Freeman. We look forward to working with the administration to increase vaccination rates of essential workers throughout the country.”