Industry Groups Urge Flexibility in Biden Vaccine Mandate or Risk Crippling ‘Already Strained Supply Chain’

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
November 5, 2021 Updated: November 5, 2021

A coalition of business groups—including key supply chain stakeholders representing industries like foodservice, trucking, and warehousing—have called on the Biden administration for flexibility in its COVID-19 private employer vaccine mandate or risk exacerbating the supply chain crunch.

A Nov. 3 open letter, signed by nearly 100 groups—such as the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, American Trucking Associations, and the National Retail Federation—urges the Biden administration to take a series of steps to fix the supply chain crisis gripping the economy and pushing inflation to a high not seen in decades.

“While we represent different industries, we share the common burden of current supply chain disruptions, which are driving up prices and leading to a growing shortage of goods in the United States, with the holidays just around the corner,” the coalition wrote.

The mandate, announced by President Joe Biden in September, was released to the public on Nov. 4. It requires employers with 100 or more employees to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from workers or force them to get tested for the disease on a regular basis, at least once a week.

The vaccine requirement has faced backlash from critics, while numerous lawsuits have been filed against the Biden administration over the mandate. Others, including lawmakers and industry groups, fear that the mandate may further exacerbate labor shortages amid supply-chain bottlenecks.

In their open letter, one of the five measures the industry groups call for to ease the supply chain crisis is for the Biden administration to exempt transportation and supply chain essential workers from the private employer vaccine mandate.

“Our industries are committed partners in the fight against COVID-19, and we unequivocally support the use of vaccines to fight its spread. However, we are concerned a mandate will cripple an already strained supply chain,” the groups wrote.

“We estimate companies covered by the mandate could lose 37 percent of drivers at a time when the nation is already short 80,000 truck drivers. We ask for flexibility for transportation and supply chain essential workers, particularly truck drivers who spend most of their time in their trucks and have minimal contact with colleagues and customers,” they added.

The groups also seek to tackle the truck driver shortage through the creation of a pilot apprenticeship program for younger drivers, promote careers in transportation and the supply chain more broadly, introduce more regulatory flexibility for more expedient delivery of essential goods, and continue to investigate the causes of bottlenecks at ports and take action to remedy them.

Meanwhile, deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre told reporters during a briefing Thursday that the administration doesn’t think the vaccination requirements will affect the fragile supply chain.

Biden said in a statement that vaccine mandates are working to increase vaccination rates, while arguing that they have not led to “mass firings” or “worker shortages.”

“As we’ve seen with businesses—large and small—across all sectors of our economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to get vaccinated,” Biden said in a statement. “There have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements. Despite what some predicted and falsely assert, vaccination requirements have broad public support.”

Thousands of Americans have been confirmed by various companies as quitting or getting fired over mandates.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 37 percent of unvaccinated workers would quit their jobs if their employer required that they either take weekly COVID-19 tests or get vaccinated.

And while 25 percent of all adults polled said they know someone who has left their job due to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, 5 percent of unvaccinated workers—or 1 percent of all adults—have done so themselves.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'