Michael Hanson, senior executive vice president, public affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), issued the following statement on the Biden-Harris administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for employers with 100 or more employees mandating covid-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for all employees:
“Leading retailers have long been advocates for the highest possible safety standards throughout the pandemic – demonstrated by countless policies that have encouraged and rewarded employees for receiving the vaccinations. We believe those efforts have made a difference in communities across the country. In addition, retailers have been preparing for the expected implementation of the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from OSHA which will mandate the vaccine or testing for all workers starting Jan. 4.
“Retailers outlined specific operational challenges and potential business disruptions the ETS will present for the nation’s largest private sector employers. With the holiday season upon us and consumer demand expected to hit record levels, we requested a 90-day implementation timeline which would have allowed employers more time to design and implement the new vaccine and testing requirements after the holidays. The current 60-day timeline doesn’t afford retail that opportunity, and it falls short of the 75 days the government originally gave itself to implement a mandate on federal employees —a period they have now lengthened for government contractors while imposing a much stricter standard on the private sector.
“While the mandate on private employers technically begins post-holiday, the planning time to design and implement the mandate will fall during the busiest part of the shopping season. We also remain concerned about the nation’s testing capacity and have expressed those concerns to the Biden-Harris administration as they work to ramp up testing capacity across the country. Retailers appreciate that the ETS does not apply to remote workers. Preempting these workers will alleviate some strain on the demand for tests, however, the prohibition of self-attestation will require employers to monitor employees, creating a logistical bottleneck for large employers like retail.
“Retail remains ready partners in the shared goal of increasing vaccination rates. However, the fines threatened in this order of $13,653 to $136,532 are unnecessary and unhelpful--it pits government against private employers instead of working with them to create a safe working environment. We hope OSHA will choose to work collaboratively with retailers during what is shaping up to be a hectic holiday season coupled with a global supply chain crisis, which is already testing retail operations across the country.
“Despite all these challenges, leading retailers will continue to operate our stores, distribution centers, and delivery services with a focus on providing a safe and welcoming environment for all our employees and customers. We are committed to keeping the economy growing as we defeat this pandemic.”
RILA is the US trade association for leading retailers. We convene decision-makers, advocate for the industry, and promote operational excellence and innovation. Our aim is to elevate a dynamic industry by transforming the environment in which retailers operate.
RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs, and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers domestically and abroad.