WASHINGTON, Oct.15 (Reuters) – Several influential industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, met with White House officials Friday and raised concerns about labor shortages and coronavirus testing requirements as the government scrambles to implement a plan endeavors to ensure that workers in the private sector are vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Office of Management & Budget (OMB) virtually ran the meetings, some of which were scheduled for Monday, including the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers, according to public records. The industry groups called for the meetings that are part of the rulemaking process.
Other powerful groups and companies like the HR Policy Association, a forum for the largest US employers, and automaker Chrysler parent Stellantis discussed the mandate with OMB officials on Thursday.
According to Roger King, the group’s senior labor and employment advisor, the HR Policy Association stressed that companies want to be a partner to help increase vaccination rates.
The group expressed concerns that employers need clear rules on a wide variety of topics, including COVID-19 test alternatives to vaccinations and confidentiality.
“It appears to be moving forward at warp speed,” said King.
Marc Freedman, vice president of labor policy for the U.S. Chamber, said the group had raised concerns about labor shortages and how health and safety regulation regulation could exacerbate the existing supply chain issues U.S. businesses face ahead of the holidays. Other issues like test requirements and who pays the costs were also raised, he said.
Freedman said the chamber hopes the von Biden government will give employers a grace period to comply with the new regulation.
President Joe Biden’s plan has generated mixed reactions from companies and industry associations.
Several large employers such as Procter & Gamble (PG.N) and 3M (MMM.N) as well as airlines such as American (AAL.O) and JetBlue (JBLU.O) have placed mandates since Biden’s announcement. Others like IBM (IBM.N) have announced that all U.S. employees must be fully vaccinated by December 8, regardless of how often they enter the office.
Some other large US employers, such as Walmart (WMT.N), have yet to enact extensive requirements.
The retail industry, which supports over 50 million U.S. jobs, wants the government to answer questions about vaccination verification processes and what action can be taken if employees decline vaccinations and tests, according to a letter from RILA to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Biden said on Thursday that the mandate decision was “soon” to be expected. The Department of Labor submitted the first text of the judgment to the White House on Tuesday.
The mandate applies to companies with 100 or more employees and is implemented through a state rulemaking mechanism known as the Temporary Emergency Standard. This would affect around 80 million employees nationwide.
Along with Biden’s order last month, which mandates vaccination of all federal employees and contractors, the orders are for 100 million people, or about two-thirds of the US workforce.
The announcement of Biden’s mandate came in September as the country faced a surge in COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths caused by the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus as a large proportion of Americans turned down vaccinations. The coronavirus has killed more than 700,000 Americans.
The vaccine ordinance has already dismissed many Republican governors, including Greg Abbott of Texas, who passed an ordinance that banned companies in his state from requiring vaccinations for employees.
(This story has been rewritten to add an omitted word in paragraph 2.)
Reporting by Nandita Bose and Tom Hals; Additional coverage from David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot, David Gregorio and Leslie Adler
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.