Retail, supplier orgs call for clarity on Biden’s vaccination requirement

In response to President Joe Biden unveiling new vaccination mandates for employers with more than 100 employees, FMI and the Consumer Brand Association are responding.
David Salazar
Managing Editor
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Two industry organizations — one representing retailers and another representing suppliers — have responded to the Biden administration’s move to require businesses with more than 100 employees to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested for it regularly. 

FMI – The Food Industry Association and the Consumer Brands Association in separate statements, called for clarification from the government, particularly around enforcement. 

“The announcement yesterday by President Biden of an employer mandate on vaccinations and testing for employees, including fines and penalties for businesses that fail to comply, raises a tremendous number of questions including when the rules will be released; how long businesses have to get their full workforces vaccinated before fines are levied; availability of COVID-19 tests; and whether pharmacies that accept Medicare or Medicaid are covered under the requirement for federally funded health care settings, to name a few,” FMI chief public policy officer and senior vice president Jennifer Hatcher said.

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie

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She added, “We continue to review the outline the Biden administration announced and are collecting a list of critical questions that must be answered in order to even understand how to comply with this mandate within the framework of existing laws and regulations including privacy, employment discrimination and leave requirements. There are simply more questions than answers at this point.”

Hatcher noted that more than 10,000 of FMI’s member companies are providing vaccines in their supermarket pharmacies and cited its proprietary research that showed a willingness among 70% of people surveyed to either very likely or definitely receive a COVID-19 vaccine at their supermarket pharmacy. 

“Since COVID-19 vaccines became available to the public, FMI and our members have been committed to encouraging food industry employees to receive the vaccine, but also respected their right to make choices about their own individual health needs and those of their families,” Hatcher said. 

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As for the Consumer Brands Association, the trade group for the CPG industry pointed to a survey of CPG companies last summer that found 64% of respondents saying conflicting guidance at local, state and federal levels was problematic for their businesses. 

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government has often failed to implement well-intentioned policy,” CBD president and CEO Geoff Freeman said. “President Biden’s announcement prompts critical questions that require immediate clarification. As with other mandates, the devil is in the details. Without additional clarification for the business community, employee anxieties and questions will multiply.”

Freeman added, “Across the federal government, we will need to see a degree of coordination, rapid response and private sector engagement to be successful. We look forward to working with the administration to increase vaccination rates of essential workers throughout the country.”

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Biden announced the move Thursday evening as part of a retooled approach to curbing COVID-19. The vaccine mandate will take the form of an emergency Department of Labor rule that will focus on ensuring a vaccinated or COVID-negative workforce. It will also require employers with more than 100 employees to offer paid time off to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

“The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden said. “We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”

The efforts are in addition to previously announced requirements for people who with Medicare and Medicaid patients to be vaccinated, and alongside an expansion of that mandate to include anyone who works in hospitals, home healthcare facilities or other medical facilities. In total, the efforts will cover 97 million American workers. Biden also added a vaccination man-date for executive branch federal employees and federal contractors. 

“We’ve made so much progress during the past seven months of this pandemic,” Biden said. “The recent increases in vaccinations in August already are having an impact in some states where case counts are dropping in recent days. Even so, we remain at a critical moment, a critical time. We have the tools. Now we just have to finish the job with truth, with science, with confidence, and together as one nation.”