“Right target… wrong tactic:” Federal vaccine mandate confuses Michigan business leaders



It’s been six weeks since President Joe Biden announced that companies with 100 or more employees would be subject to a warrant for vaccination or routine testing, and Michigan Chambers of Commerce still have no idea how that would be implemented.

“Can you work while waiting for an exam?” “

“If an employee is positive, are they suspended or quarantined?” “

“What’s the magic number?” Why do we have 100 employees? “

These were among the questions posed by regional chambers of commerce when launching Listen to MI Business, a new state-wide coalition formed in response to the planned federal mandate.

The group held a press conference on Monday, October 18, calling on Biden and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to slow down and reconsider the federal vaccine mandate.

Richard Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said business leaders expect the Biden administration to present a detailed mandate this week or next. He believes that the employers who were bypassed were not given a chance to give their opinion. The statewide chamber is concerned that a single mandate may be too onerous for Michigan businesses.

“Living and working in Traverse City is different from Taylor’s,” he said. “The chamber federation is strong here in Michigan, it is our intention to play a positive and constructive role in this debate.”

Chamber leaders from Traverse City, Petoskey, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance representing 16 chambers in northern Michigan joined the press call to launch the coalition.

All company representatives applauded the employers for promoting vaccination among their employers. Warren Call, CEO of TraverseConnect, described the tenure as “the right goal, but not the right tactic to get it”.

“We know vaccines save lives and widespread vaccination is our best bet for a strong economic recovery,” he said. “But the bottom line is that the burden of ensuring a healthy and robust environment after the pandemic is everyone’s responsibility. Employers should not be asked to take on this responsibility alone.

If a federal mandate came before the end of the month, it would happen amid businesses still trying to get back on their feet. Expectations are unrealistic and ignore the fact that businesses are still operating in “far from normal” times, said Nikki Devitt, president of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Right now, there are far too many questions employers can answer on the fly, Devitt said. She answered questions from local business owners about what happens if there aren’t enough tests available to regularly test unvaccinated employees, and how businesses can plan for lost productivity and time. to tests.

Devitt used his hometown as an example. Emmet County has vaccinated more than 70% of its residents, a leader among counties in Michigan. Devitt presented the scenario that if a company with 600 employees achieved that 70% vaccination rate, it would likely still have 180 unvaccinated employees.

“When we look at simple math, we need to express our concern,” she said.

Coalition members voiced concerns from local business owners about the labor shortage and how a tenure can leave them even more short-staffed. Hiring in the North is still tenuous, Devitt said, it is likely that employees will leave rather than be subjected to a vaccine requirement or routine testing.

“To expect companies to have the human resources to run such a detailed program under threat of sanction, with the already limited staff and resources at their disposal, in a time of economic chaos, is just too much. ask, ”Devitt said.

Funding and logistical hurdles are worrying for employers, but so is the effect on morale at work, said Andy Johnston, vice president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I don’t think you need to remind anyone how much this divides,” he said. “We’re, again, going to put employers right in the middle of this in a very arbitrary fashion, it seems.”

Questions about how companies determine if they meet the 100 employee threshold were raised several times during the call. Taking into account the seasonal workforce or small businesses that are the supplier to large companies has started a rabbit substantive discussion about what defines an employee.

“One of the laws that worries us, frankly, is the law of unknown or unintended consequences,” Studley said.

The Whitmer Administration may have a role to play, as Michigan has its own Occupational Safety and Health Administration approved workplace safety agency. When a plan for the federal term is announced, MIOSHA will have 30 days to implement it or come up with a similar plan that meets these federal standards. The state has a “federal floor”, but could go beyond it with even stricter measures.

Studley did not say the Michigan Chamber of Commerce would take legal action if a federal mandate was deemed too strict. He acknowledged that trade and professional associations have already expressed their concerns and that individual states can challenge the mandate in court.

The Listen to MI Business coalition is the chamber’s response to the proposed tenure, Studley said. He said he expects more chambers across the state to join forces and lobby state and federal lawmakers to get corporate input before creating a sweeping rule.

“Here in the Michigan chamber, we know that it is better to try to help develop a good rule than to have to go to court later,” he said.

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