Vaccine Mandates Proves Difficult for Warehouses During Hiring Crunch
At a time when there is a real labor crunch for warehouse workers, a federal vaccination mandate to quell the COVID-19 pandemic is putting an added strain on the industry, some say.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's rule would require businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or have employees get tested weekly for the sometimes deadly virus.
Some large companies are already urging employees to get vaccinated, but mixed reactions have been based on questions remaining around the mandate.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association applauds the mandate, saying it helps protect workers and will stimulate economic recovery. The National Association of Manufacturers calls the vaccines “an economic imperative” but wants the federal government's assurance that the mandate will not become a cost burden for manufacturers.
Some unvaccinated workers are still pushing back, which could be difficult for the ongoing supply chain employee shortages.
About one-quarter of workers oppose a vaccination requirement, while about half of works favor vaccine requirements. As a result, manufacturers worry labor shortages could get worse.
Walmart and Amazon are encouraging but not requiring that warehouse workers get vaccinated. According to the latest figures, about 75% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Some companies are still up and running only because they are using 50% temporary labor, a number that is typically around 20%. Many of those temp workers lack the familiarity that more experienced workers have with operations.
With peak season just around the corner, many in the supply chain sector worry they will not be able to hire the workers they need to meet demands.
Many companies are already struggling due to supply chain issues and some worry that the added cost of weekly tests will add to their struggles.
The American Trucking Association has said the mandate could affect employment levels and cause further supply chain disruptions. Still, it says it will choose a path that protects its industry so deliveries can continue.
If truckers choose to move to companies with fewer than 100 workers to avoid the vaccination mandate, it could affect capacity.
Some, though, are ahead of the curve, like Tyson Foods, which announced in August that it would require all U.S. workers to be fully vaccinated by November. Of course, there are exceptions for medical or religious accommodations. And the
meat processing industry is also having difficulties hiring frontline workers.
There have been some outbreaks of COVID at meat processing facilities and Tyson says the mandate was the responsible decision to protect its team. However, the company's position is one of short-term pain for long-term gain.
To avoid penalties, some companies will get more creative in how they offer incentives to employees. Sign-on bonuses are one example.
For those who firmly plan to follow the federal mandate, some warn that they should not try to get all or even half of their employees vaccinated at once, in case there are side effects that keep them out of work for a day or two.
The saga will continue until the Biden Administration releases its final mandate and any legal challenges get sorted through.
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