Some Business Owners Concerned Biden's Vaccine Mandate Will Make it Harder to Hire Workers

Some business owners are concerned that President Joe Biden's new federal vaccine mandate will make it more difficult to hire new employees, and might drive away current employees, the Associated Press reported.

The new mandate issued Thursday will require employers with more than 100 workers to mandate receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or to offer weekly testing, concerning some business owners that employees will seek jobs at smaller companies without the requirement.

"In a tight marketplace, it's very difficult to find employees, much less to keep our current employees," said Jonathan Chariff, CEO of South Motors. "It's easy for them to go and find another job elsewhere."

South Motors is a group of 12 auto dealerships in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area with more than 1,100 workers, and Chariff said he currently has 80 to 100 openings. Though he is supportive of Biden's decision and wants his workers to be vaccinated, he opted against requiring it because of the labor shortage.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Now Hiring Sign
Some business owners are concerned that President Joe Biden's new vaccine mandate will make hiring new employees or retaining old ones more difficult. Above, "Now Hiring" in the window of a restaurant in San Ramon, California, on August 21, 2021. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The new rules could affect as many as 100 million Americans, although it's not clear how many of those people are currently unvaccinated.

Karl Wadensten, CEO of Richmond, Rhode Island-based VIBCO Vibrators, was an early adopter of masks, weekly virus testing and temperature checks at his manufacturing business and has encouraged vaccinations but fears he'd lose employees if he forced them to get the jab.

Wadensten, whose company makes industrial vibrators used in dump trucks and other applications, said Friday he is waiting for more clarity about what the Biden orders will mean for his business, which has a small number of government contracts. His workforce has been hovering just above and below 100 employees, of whom about 85 percent are vaccinated.

"For that other 15 percent, it would be detrimental to their beliefs and values that they have," he said.

Conversely, smaller companies see being exempt as an advantage. Like other businesses, Alan Dietrich, CEO of Crater Lake Spirits in Bend, Oregon, is facing staff shortages. He has a 36 workers, with an immediate need for two or three more.

"Being left out of the mandate is helpful for hiring," he said. "We are still finding that a small but meaningful number of people in our area are vaccine hesitant, and staffing is so tough that even one person is significant to us."

On the other hand, he said, the business is more susceptible to slowdowns or shutdowns due to positive tests. But a statewide mask mandate in Oregon "definitely helps keep our staff safer," he said.

Per Biden's order, the millions who work as employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government won't have the option to get tested instead of taking the vaccine. The order also requires large companies to provide paid time off for vaccination.

AP reached out to a wide range of companies since Thursday's announcement. Many, like General Motors and Ford, said they favor vaccines but were analyzing the executive order. Others noted that they already require vaccinations.

Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, was one of the first major companies to mandate vaccines for some of its workers. Workers at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as its managers who travel within the U.S. must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 4.

But the vaccine mandate excluded front-line workers such as cashiers, who according to the company have a lower vaccination rate than management.

The tech industry has largely been at the forefront of vaccine requirements, making the sector in general a likely supporter of Biden's policy on the issue. In late July, Google became one of the first major U.S. employers to decide all its workers needed to be vaccinated before returning to the office. Facebook quickly adopted a similar policy a few hours after Google took its hard stand on vaccines.

"The business community is really going to appreciate this," said Angela B. Cornell, a clinical professor at Cornell Law School, who focuses on labor law. "This shift will make it a lot easier for employers to push those individuals who have been on the fence or who have been opposed."

Companies won't have to worry about being sued, since it's a government mandate and not one from the employer, she said.

Those who don't work for federal contractors and are afraid of the vaccine can choose weekly testing instead, but many people who are simply hesitant are more likely to get immunized, said Dorit Reiss, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law who has studied vaccine mandates for nearly a decade.

"The testing is sufficiently burdensome that most of them would prefer just to be vaccinated," she said.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging Delta variant. Above, Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House on September 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo