As hospitals around the United States battle Omicron, deadlines for health workers’ mandates loom. They are learning how to be Starbucks baristas in Cheektowaga, NY. The company said that most of its employees had been vaccinated, but not all of them. Credit : Credit She writes for the New York Times.
People say that because of the Supreme Court’s decision last week to stop the Biden administration from getting big businesses to help them get vaccinated against COVID-19, there will be a lot more uncertainty about how businesses can keep their health workers safe.
This means that now Starbucks, which has 9,000 coffee shops and 200,000 employees in the United States, has become one of the first big retailers to change its vaccine plans after the court ruled in favour of them.
Starbucks told its employees in a memo on Tuesday that they no longer had to be fully vaccinated or have coronavirus tests every week. Just two weeks ago, the company had written down the rules and set a deadline of Feb. 9.
The Supreme Court’s decision didn’t stop companies from keeping their vaccine rules in place, and many will keep rolling out strict Covid-19 safety rules as long as Covid case counts stay high.
Starbucks’ decision to change its vaccine-or-test deadline shows how the court’s decision has put employers in charge of setting vaccination rules. Companies also have to deal with a mix of federal, state, and local laws. These laws range from vaccine requirements that are stricter than the federal government’s to laws that say companies can’t make their health worker wear masks.
It’s been a problem for most employers because when they think they know what to do, the rules change. Domenique Camacho Moran, a labour and employment lawyer with the firm Farrell Fritz, said this:
Retailers and their supporters had been some of the most outspoken critics of the federal government’s new vaccine rule. They said it would have made it more difficult for them to hire or keep health workers at a time when many Americans are still out of work.
Some labour lawyers say they think other businesses will follow Starbucks and relax or change their company rules, like Starbucks did.
Brett Coburn, a lawyer at Alston & Bird, said that “a lot of companies were only doing this because they were told to.”
When President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make a temporary standard in November, they did so. It told businesses with more than 100 employees to make their employees get vaccinated or have tests every week.
It was John Culver, Starbucks’ chief operating officer, who said in a memo Tuesday that the company had changed its plans and that “the vast majority” of health worker in the U.S. had been vaccinated.
Culver: “I want to make it clear that we still believe very strongly in both the spirit and the goal of the mandate.”
The company is making this move because it is facing a lot of pressure from its health workers to join a union. Two weeks ago, workers at a unionised store in Buffalo, New York, went on strike because they said their jobs were dangerous. Some people said they were surprised that the vaccine rule had been changed so much.
Starbucks health workers United, a union that represents two stores in the Buffalo area, said they were angry that the decision was made without their input.
According to a statement, Starbucks changed their policy on vaccines without talking about it or negotiating with their employees who are part of a union.
On the other hand, Starbucks said that its vaccination requirement was only put in place because the federal government had set a different standard, which the Supreme Court then blocked.
Reggie Borges, a spokesman for the company, said: “It was not our own policy.” As long as we knew OSHA was requiring it, there had been no decision from the Supreme Court, and we needed to make sure our partners were supported and ready to follow the law.
Some big companies, like Walmart and Amazon, had put off requiring broad vaccines while OSHA’s rule was in court. Some other people, like United Airlines and Tyson Foods, made their own rules. During a poll of 543 companies in November, the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson found that 57 percent required or planned to require Covid vaccines, including 32 percent that would only do so if OSHA’s rule came into effect.
A partner at the law firm King & Spalding told me that “there are a lot of different views in the corporate world.” It says there are people who have chosen to do mandates on their own, people who have been following the government’s mandate, and people who have fought against it.
Companies that are considering vaccine requirements have had to think about a lot of different things, says Ms. Sonneborn. These include labor shortages, how mandates are seen by the public, and the need to keep health workers safe.
Starbucks said earlier this month that health workers would have to show that they had been vaccinated by Jan. 10.
Kyli Hilaire, a 20-year-old barista who worked at a unionised coffee shop, said it made her feel better to know that the people she worked with had been vaccinated.
“You see people every day, you work closely with them, and there isn’t much of a chance to get away from each other.” “The number of people who come into the space makes you wary.” When I can’t breathe, I try to double mask. Starbucks “strongly” advises customers to cover their faces when they visit stores, and in some places, it is required by local law.
On Tuesday, Starbucks also announced a lot of new Covid-19 safety rules. Health workers now have to wear three-ply medical-grade masks, which the company says can be found in stores. People who have been exposed to Covid-19, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated, have to stay inside, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated.
People who work for the company are still encouraged to get the vaccine and booster, and the company is giving them two hours of paid time off so they can do so.