CLEVELAND — President Joe Biden’s planned federal vaccine requirement for businesses employing more than 100 workers could have a profound impact on more than 80 million workers, many of whom are working in industries that have continued to be pressed by the pandemic. The exact details of the vaccine mandate remain largely unknown, particularly regarding how the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans on enforcing it.
Biden has instructed OSHA to develop a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees, according to the White House. Thousands of dollars in fines per employee can be levied for non-compliance.
John Barker, the president of the Ohio Restaurant Association, said the ORA has been and continues to be supportive of the push for vaccinations within the restaurant industry. However, Biden’s mandate, he said, also presents major operational and logistical challenges.
“This isn’t a total surprise to us. The government is trying to push that [vaccination number] higher and higher because this is the only way out of the problem that we have. The variant is a problem,” Barker said. “But how do you actually [enforce the mandate?] Those details are not provided yet. The announcement came out, everybody is aware of it. Now we’re trying to learn what it’s going to be and how do you do it, track it, let the government know. There are a lot of questions and the uncertainty makes a lot of people nervous, quite honestly.”
Currently, there is no central location in which business owners can notify OSHA of the vaccination status of their workforce. It is also unclear how much information is expected to be shared — if at all. Additionally, Barker said the mere collection of that information could prove difficult because unlike employers working in office buildings, most restaurants don’t have a dedicated human resources representative working in the building.
The restaurant industry can also be quite transient.
“How do you aggregate all that? In most places, you don’t have anybody that has a role like that inside of one location like an independent restaurant. The practicality of this is something that is worrisome for people,” Barker said. “It’s another burden on top of 18 months for many people in this industry who have had to kick and scream and claw to survive. This will be another hurdle for our industry.”
Sam McNulty, the co-owner of Market Garden Brewery as well as other restaurants and brewpubs in the Cleveland area, said his staff reached a fully vaccinated status earlier this year.
“It was, without question, a top priority for us to get everybody on board,” McNulty said. “Our last few holdouts, it was just a matter of just sitting down, no pressure and let’s hear what your thoughts are. It quickly became obvious that it was basic misinformation.”
When the mass vaccination site opened at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University, Market Garden drew publicity for offering a beer and a shot for those that showed proof of vaccination. To date, McNulty said nearly 10,000 people have taken him up on his offer. Additionally, there have been positive developments on the workforce front too, he said.
“We’re seeing a very healthy uptick in job applications,” McNulty said. “We’re still hiring — I’ll throw that out there — we’re always looking for good people.”