Several business groups criticize the rules

On Thursday, several business groups raised concerns about President Joe Biden’s Covid vaccination mandate, arguing the requirements would burden businesses during the busy holiday season as they rush to meet the implementation deadline that comes shortly after New Year’s Day.

The mandate, which extends to businesses with 100 or more employees, requires US companies to ensure that their employees are vaccinated or regularly tested by January 4th.

However, all unvaccinated workers should start wearing masks indoors a month earlier, on 5 December. under the new rules issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Department of Labor.

OSHA will also conduct workplace compliance checks in the workplace, with fines for violations ranging from $ 13,653 to $ 136,532.

The National Retail Federation and the Retail Leaders Association, which requested a 90-day implementation period during meetings with White House officials last month, said the mandate would burden their members during the busy holiday shopping season.

“Since the president announced the private sector vaccine, the average number of cases in seven days in the United States has dropped by more than half,” said David French, NRF’s senior vice president of government affairs.

“However, the Biden administration has decided to declare an ’emergency’ and impose onerous new demands on retailers during a crucial holiday shopping season,” French said.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association called the implementation period “insufficient” and stated that potential fines for non-compliance are “unnecessary and useless,” warning that turns the government against private employers instead of working with them to create a safe work environment… “

“While the powers for private employers technically start after the holidays, the planning time for developing and implementing the powers falls within the busiest period of the shopping season,” the association said in a statement Thursday.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses said OSHA’s new mandate makes it “even more difficult and troublesome” for small business owners to operate in an already challenging environment.

“The NFIB continues to oppose this rule, which restricts the freedom of small business owners to decide how best to run their business and places an undue burden on small businesses that further threatens small business recovery,” said Karen Harned, CEO of NFIB’s Small Business. Legal Center, in a statement Thursday.

Senior administration officials said OSHA will help companies comply with the mandate by providing sample implementation plans, newsletters and other forms of outreach.

The Biden administration has also pushed back the deadline for federal contractors to meet a stricter set of vaccine requirements for staff to January 4 from December 8, in order to meet the deadline for other private companies and healthcare providers.

Business Roundtable President and CEO Joshua Bolten welcomed mandate renewals for federal contractors, while stressing that “implementation is a critical issue” and reiterated the Biden administration’s call for flexibility with companies.

He noted the difficulties in retaining employees, supply chain problems before the holidays, and “the challenges many companies face” that both new federal and private health regulations must comply with.

United States Chamber of Commerce, which duplicates itself The statement from the world’s largest business organization appeared in support of OSHA’s “significant adjustments” to the vaccine mandate, “which reflect concerns expressed by the business community.”

The group said it will focus on “helping our members get their employees vaccinated,” and that this will communicate “operational and practical issues” to employers to OSHA.

The National Producers Association is concerned about the “excessive cost burden” in fulfilling the mandate. Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Manufacturers Association, has called on the Biden administration to remain flexible.

“Federal vaccine requirements need to be flexible enough to ensure we can meet these goals, and we value OSHA for taking many of our contributions into account,” Timmons said.

“We are still reviewing the rule, but we will continue to share the views and experiences of manufacturers with the administration to ensure that our members do not face excessive cost burdens and other potential disruptions,” he said.

United Auto Workers Union in a statement noted the difficulty of enforcing new mandates related to Covid, saying: “We will review our over 700 contracts with employers and see how this rule will affect current protocols in various workplaces, as well as any terms of our existing contracts. “

Federal contractors with a stricter mandate include major airlines such as American, Southwest and Delta, which carry US mail and government officials, as well as Boeing, IBM and others.

Pilot unions in America and the Southwest have been particularly vocal against this mandate, saying it must be a medical solution for every pilot. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association tried to block this mandate, but last week a federal judge in Texas dismissed the demand and dismissed the union’s lawsuit.

Both unions have welcomed a respite for federal contractors. “We are pleased to hear that the Biden administration has heard concerns from workers and industry about the deadline ahead of the busy holiday season,” Southwest Pilots Union President Casey Murray said in a statement. “While the mandate remains in place, this new date will undoubtedly give the SWA an opportunity to better plan and negotiate with SWAPA on the protocols associated with the mandate and how they affect our pilots.”

Southwest said it was reviewing the updated guidance, but did not say if it would push back the internal vaccination deadline.

Late last month, some of the nation’s largest unions pushed the Biden administration to expand their vaccine plans to include additional employee protections. This group included the AFL-CIO and United Food and Commercial Workers, who, in a lawsuit against the Biden administration, argued that OSHA Covid’s safety standards were inadequate.

UFCW International President Mark Perron said Thursday that while the new mandate did not go far enough, it nevertheless was “an important first step to keep workers safe at work.”

“The hard truth is this pandemic is far from over,” Perrone said.

Melissa Repko of CNBC contributed to this report.

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