WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Several influential industry
groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce met White House
officials on Friday and raised concerns about labor shortages
and coronavirus testing requirements as the administration races
to implement a plan to require private-sector workers to be
vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Office of Management & Budget (OMB) conducted the
meetings virtually, with some scheduled for Monday, among which
will be the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Business
Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers,
according to public filings. The industry groups requested the
meetings, which are part of the rulemaking process.
Other powerful groups and companies such as the HR Policy
Association, a forum for the largest U.S. employers, and
automaker Chrysler parent Stellantis discussed the
mandate with OMB officials on Thursday.
The HR Policy Association emphasized that businesses want to
be a partner to boost vaccination rates, according to Roger
King, the group's senior labor and employment counsel.
The group did express concerns that employers need clear
rules on a variety of issues, including COVID-19 testing
alternatives to vaccination and confidentiality.
"It appears to be moving forward with warp speed," King
Marc Freedman, vice president of workplace policy for the
U.S Chamber, said the group raised concerns about labor
shortages and how regulation of the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration could intensify existing supply chain
problems facing U.S. companies ahead of the holidays. Other
topics such as testing requirements and who will bear the cost
were also raised, he said.
Freedman said the Chamber hopes the Biden administration
will offer a grace period to employers so they can come into
compliance with the new regulation.
President Joe Biden's plan has drawn mixed reactions from
companies and industry trade groups.
Several big employers such as Procter & Gamble and 3M
, along with airlines such as American and
JetBlue, have imposed mandates since Biden's
announcement. Others such as IBM have said they will
require all U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8,
regardless how often they come into the office.
Some other large U.S. employers such as Walmart,
have yet to issue broad requirements.
The retail industry, which supports over 50 million U.S.
jobs, wants the administration to address questions regarding
vaccination verification processes and what actions can be taken
when employees refuse vaccinations and testing, according to a
letter sent by RILA to the U.S. Labor Department.
Biden on Thursday said the mandate ruling can be expected
"soon." The Labor Department on Tuesday submitted https://reut.rs/3FSOqzN
to the White House the initial text of the ruling.
The mandate will apply to businesses with 100 or more
employees and be implemented under a federal rule-making
mechanism known as an emergency temporary standard. It would
affect roughly 80 million workers nationwide.
Along with Biden's order last month that requires all
federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated, the orders
cover 100 million people, or about two-thirds of the U.S.
Biden's mandate announcement in September came as the
country was facing a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and
deaths driven by the fast-spreading Delta variant of the
coronavirus as a large swath of Americans refused vaccinations.
The coronavirus has killed more than 700,000 Americans.
The vaccine order has already spurred pushback from many
Republican governors, including Greg Abbott of Texas, who issued
an executive order banning businesses in his state from
requiring vaccinations for employees.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Tom Hals; Additional reporting
by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot, David Gregorio and