Christmas shopping season has arrived, and retailers are stealing this season by doing everything from cutting prices to stocking the showroom to lure back customers who stayed at home last year. The biggest of these is the one thing the White House and many public health experts are asking them to do: require their workers to be vaccinated.
As other industries with employees in public roles, such as airlines and hospitals, have moved towards demanding vaccines, retailers have stepped on their heels, citing labor shortage concerns. And some of the nation’s largest workforces will remain unvaccinated as shoppers are expected to flock to the stores.
At the heart of retailers’ resistance is the concern of having enough people to work. In a tight labor market, retailers offer potential workers benefits such as higher wages and better working hours in hopes of having enough people to work in their stores and distribution centers. The National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group, estimates retailers will employ up to 665,000 seasonal workers this year.
Macy’s, for example, said it plans to hire 76,000 full- and part-time employees this season. The retailer offered referral bonuses of up to $500 for each friend or relative it recruited employees to join it. Macy’s has asked company employees to get vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19 to enter their offices this fall. But store employees are a different story.
“We have a lot of stores with a lot of openings, and any decision we have to require these colleagues to be vaccinated before Christmas is going to worsen our workforce shortage, which is entering a really critical time for us,” Jeff Gennette said. Macy’s CEO said in an interview.
The industry showed how strongly it felt about it this month when the Biden administration ordered companies with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing by January 4. Five days after this announcement, the National Retail Federation filed suit to halt this effort.
“We all agree with the idea that vaccines are good and vaccines save lives,” Stephanie Martz, executive officer of the NRF, said in an interview Monday.
“But likewise, you can’t just say, ‘Okay, do that’.”
order now held in litigationhas been challenged by a string of lawsuits from a broad coalition of dissidents and could go to the Supreme Court. Court filings by the administration warn that blocking the rule would “probably cost dozens or even hundreds of lives a day.”
Mr Gennette, who sits on the federation’s board, said Macy’s would “love to see” the order placed for the industry in the first quarter, which typically begins in February. This reflects the federation that has said it wants to push the deadline back a few months.
“I support that – I would love to have it in a timeline that works for us,” said Mr Gennette. “We need more time.”
Many health experts say employee entitlements are the only way to help the country emerge from the pandemic, as widespread misinformation and politicization of the coronavirus is helping to suppress vaccination rates. The vaccination rate for those aged 12 and over in the United States is about 69 percent, with rates as low as 40 percent in some pockets of the country. Average daily case reports increased by more than 20 percent in the last two weeks.
“It’s a pretty big question, no one denies it,” said Crystal Watson, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, about vaccine necessity for retail workers. “But we’ve also tried a lot of other things to help people get vaccinated, and I think what we need right now to get around this hurdle is a mandate.”
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, declined to comment on the federation’s lawsuit or its vaccine or testing plans. A spokesperson for Target said the company “started taking the necessary steps to meet the requirements of the new Covid-19 rules for large companies as soon as details were released.”
Spokespersons for several retailers on the federation’s board, including Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Saks, declined to comment for this article.
“I think employers are embarrassed and embarrassed by what they object to, and so they use the NRF as a cover,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Association.
“If you had the choice of going to a business or going to a store as a customer, it’s another store that says ‘All of our employees are vaccinated or tested’ or ‘We have no idea who it is’. grafted or tested, which would you choose? So let’s say the Acme Department Store doesn’t want to advertise that it supports bad public policy.”
In industries such as retail, many employers mandate vaccinations in their corporate offices. they didn’t demand them for frontline workers, share concerns about recruitment difficulties. But these workers included nearly four million in storesare among the most vulnerable. They interact with the public frequently and less likely to be vaccinated themselves. powers aggressive, United Airlines and several healthcare companies It shows that employees most frequently prefer to vaccinate when faced with the possibility of losing their job.
“We know that vaccine requirements work,” said White House spokesman Kevin Munoz. “The federal government, the nation’s largest employer, successfully implemented necessity to increase vaccines and prevent any disruption to operations.”
Still, companies that mandated the vaccines faced protests or lawsuits. in some states Lawsuit filed to prevent. For example, Disney Mission for those working at Disney World In Florida, after it became illegal for state employers to require workers to be vaccinated.
Panic and measures due to Covid-19 showed their effect in retail stores throughout the pandemic and trapped their employees.
First, there was the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses that drive chains as follows. Guitar Center and Dillard’s to argue that despite the worsening public health crisis, they must remain open and allow their staff to come in. Workers were at the forefront Disputes around mask guidelines and then masking sanction. retail chains such as REI has been criticized For not informing employees about Covid cases in stores. grocery store employees many states have not been granted priority access to vaccines.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen self-serving messages from employers that put profitability above the health and safety of their own employees,” said Mr Appelbaum. “They have a misconception that it is better to take certain actions for profits.”
Business boom for some of the biggest retailers, for example Aim and Walmart, throughout the pandemic. And while they still face rising prices and supply chain pressure, executives have recently noted that the pressure on staff has eased.
“We feel really good about our roster going into the holiday season,” said Brian Cornell, CEO of Target. He told CNBC last week. He added that the company’s retention numbers were “some of the strongest in our history” attributed to the benefits and security measures.
Retailers are betting that consumers will be comfortable shopping in stores with higher foot traffic in 2020, regardless of the industry’s efforts to combat new vaccination and testing requirements. And for those concerned about a lack of vaccines, while in-store shopping often leads to more purchases and fewer returns, companies have strengthened their e-commerce operations and pick-up offers over the past year.
When asked what Macy’s has to say about shopping in stores, Mr. Gennette said: “What I can say is we encourage all our colleagues to get vaccinated, and in our stores and warehouses every colleague wears masks to protect themselves and others. ”
Last week, a number of health groups and experts, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, made a statement. invites companies to move forward According to Ministry of Labor rules.
One of the signatories, Brown University School of Public Health dean Dr. “The hope was to provide a perspective to remind business leaders that this is not a political issue,” Ashish K. Jha said. Noting that retailers play a particular role given the nature of the employee base, Jha said it’s important for companies across all industries to follow the rule. He said these measures should be implemented during the holiday season—not after—especially as case numbers are expected to rise.
“Do they really want to be very common places during the holiday season and be responsible for their employees getting sick and infecting customers?” said.