Presidential mandate, OSHA gets involved, employers get insistent, construction workers resistant
The President has announced a plan that requires businesses with more than 100 employees to require that their workers are either fully vaccinated or subject to COVID-19 testing at least once per week. This was quickly followed up by an OSHA rule to enforce it as a matter of workplace safety. Along with contractors, this rule will apply to other businesses such as financial and retail businesses that may not be used to OSHA oversight.
As of September 13, it was reported that OSHA would issue an Emergency Temporary Standard ruling to implement this requirement, which could affect as many at 80 million workers, however at this time OSHA had not set a date for this requirement to go into effect.
While no one is required to act until a date is set, many construction firms and organizations are starting to impose their own requirements. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades has come out in support of vaccination mandates for its staff and its affiliated unions. The union is requiring vaccination of its non–bargaining unit office and field employees and has stated it will not file any vaccine-related grievances against employers who have agreements with IUPAT.
Even companies with fewer than 100 employees are expected to step up their vaccine mandates, as increased instances of COVID-19 among the trades, mainly due to the delta variant, have impacted their ability to get work done on time. A survey conducted by research firm Willis Towers Watson concluded that there will be a substantial increase in employers requiring vaccinations in the fourth quarter of 2021, including an indoor mask requirement and tracing. About 40% of employers expect these measures to remain in place well into 2022.
Check with regulations in your area, for example Montana passed a law stating that many employers were not allowed to take vaccination status into consideration when hiring.
Another survey noted that the construction industry still lags behind, with its 57% vaccination rate way below the average 82% for other industries. While there is opposition to the President’s order, other construction firms that have been unable to convince their employees to get vaccinated — and are losing workers to COVID as a result — are welcoming the new mandate as it takes the enforcement out of their hands.