Biden issues vaccination warrants to 100 million workers
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he is asking the Department of Labor to require all employers with more than 100 employees to prescribe vaccinations or undergo weekly COVID tests.
Biden estimated his executive order would affect 100 million people, or two-thirds of workers in the United States. These same employers will also be required to give workers paid time off in order to be vaccinated. Future rules will be enforced by OSHA. It is not yet clear how restaurant chains will be affected by the 100+ employee rule.
“We have been patient, but our patience is running out,” Biden said during his speech Thursday. “And your refusal has cost us all. So please do the right thing. But don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans lying in hospital beds, taking their last breaths, saying, “If only I had been vaccinated. ‘If only.'”
The move marks the federal government’s biggest push to increase immunizations, as an estimated 80 million Americans have yet to receive a vaccine. As of Thursday morning, 62.7% of the population had received a dose and 53.4% were fully immunized, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, COVID cases have declined in recent weeks, but remain high compared to early summer. The seven-day moving average of COVID cases was 136,558 on Wednesday, up from 156,856 on August 30.
The National Restaurant Association voted in favor of the decree.
“The National Restaurant Association and the restaurant industry support vaccination for everyone, as higher vaccination rates are our best bet to contain the spread of COVID-19. Our COVID-19 operational guidance best practices continue to suggest that all restaurant employees be vaccinated if possible, ”Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs, said in a statement.
As has been the case in markets like New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco, however, hurdles – and a lot of uncertainties – will likely emerge when it comes to enforcement. At New York, Restaurants are urged to comply by September 13. If they don’t, businesses will be fined $ 1,000 for a first offense, $ 2,000 for a second, and $ 5,000 for a third.
“While we appreciate the intent of this executive order, we hope that the administration will work with us to consider the unique operations of restaurants when creating the implementation guidelines,” Kennedy said.
According to a recent survey by Sangajob, 67% of 1,872 hourly workers surveyed said they would work for an employer that would force them to get the vaccine.
In August, a Littler Mendelson survey of 1,600 employers found that 80 percent of employers in retail / hospitality said they were concerned about resistance from employees who are not in a protected category but refuse to be vaccinated; 73% were concerned about the impact on their corporate culture if a vaccination mandate was put in place; and 69 percent cited staff loss and operational difficulties as a major concern in adopting a vaccine requirement against only 60 percent of all employers.
Currently, restaurant workers are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in New Orleans, Honolulu, Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as a few counties in Seattle. NYC joins this coming week. And the same requirements extend to customers wishing to dine inside.
McDonald’s, in August, also announced that company employees should be vaccinated by September 27, joining a growing list of large companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Walmart. Restaurateur Danny Meyer revealed earlier in August that his New York office Union Square Hotel Group would require all restaurant workers, new hires and customers to be vaccinated. Employees had until September to decide whether to get the vaccine.
“This is an unvaccinated pandemic,” President Biden said Thursday. “And this is because despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different places, we still have nearly of 80 million Americans who failed to get shot.
“And to make matters worse, there are elected officials who are actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19,” he added. “Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask themselves, they are ordering mobile mortuaries for unvaccinated people dying from COVID in their communities. It is totally unacceptable.
President Biden will sign an executive order requiring all federal employees of the executive brand to be vaccinated, and he has signed another that requires federal contractors to do the same.
“President Biden’s announcement is a real game changer for many employers,” Steve Bell, a partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, said in an email. “Now that the federal government will make vaccination mandatory for federal employees AND contractors, the impetus for other employers to mandate vaccination for the workforce will increase exponentially. The fact that the largest employer in the United States (the federal government) is making vaccines mandatory will reassure private employers who have been reluctant to demand vaccines. It can also set the standard of what a reasonable employer should face in this continuing epidemic. “
“OSHA, which reports to the US Department of Labor, will issue an emergency temporary standard to implement the new rule. While it is not clear when the ETS requirement will go into effect, the wait is unlikely to be long. Adds Keith Wilkes, partner / shareholder in labor and employment law at the national law firm Hall Estill. “The federal government did its legal homework before implementing the same mandate, by executive order, for federal employees in July. Today, however, President Biden announced that it was removing the regular testing option for Federal employees and employees of all federal contractors.Employers affected by the new OSHA rule will be required to determine whether there are reasonable accommodations for employees seeking to evade the vaccination mandate due to a sincere religious belief or a reason based on a disability. Private sector employees who fall under this new rule will have no choice but to be fully immunized if they wish to keep their current job. “
In addition to the vaccination mandate, President Biden announced the COVID-19 Economic Disaster Loan Program Expansion, or EIDL. It is will now allow small businesses to borrow up to $ 2 million of the current $ 500,000 to continue if the pandemic impacts sales.
“These low-interest, long-term loans require no repayment for two years and can be used to hire and retain workers, buy inventory, or even pay off more costly debts accumulated since the start of the pandemic,” he said. President Biden said. “I will also take additional steps to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.
Requirements for companies looking to use EIDL will now also reflect the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a key request the Association has requested in lobbying efforts.
“We welcome the expanded provisions included in the latest Economic Disaster Lending Program (EIDL) rules and thank the US Small Business Administration for its leadership and dedication to connecting small business franchise owners to the benefits they are in dire need, ”said Matt Haller, President and CEO of International Franchise Association, in a press release. “The intention of the SBA is to ensure that brand-specific franchises can benefit from the program. We will always advocate for the needs of small business owners who are still recovering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic and we look forward to working with the US SBA on future relief projects. “
EIDL funds can now also be used to prepay commercial debt, which means small commercial restaurants with higher interest commercial debt, or credit card debt acquired in the past year, can deploy EIDL funds to pay off this debt all at once.
“At a time when there is still an dire need for small business restaurants to access working capital, these changes will improve the prospects for thousands of operators and improve the economic outlook for communities large and small,” Kennedy added. in a press release. “We have worked with the SBA to improve the terms and use of these federal loans so that they can have more impact. The changes we have achieved will provide an additional reconstruction tool at a time when operators again face uncertainty. “