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National Retail Federation Opposing Federal COVID Vaccination Mandate


The National Retail Federation has issued a response to the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure workers are either vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID.


David French the Senior Vice President for Government Relations stated, "as an industry that supports one in four American jobs, retailers have consistently requested that the Administration consider public comment on this new vaccine mandate". The National Retail Federation has adopted a self-serving position opposing mandates and has lobbied intensely against the vaccination requirement. The Federation is a party to a recent petition to the U.S. Federal Appeals Court for the 5th Circuit to stay the implementation of the Administration mandate.


Workers in the retail industry must be protected from infection and at the same time should not be in a position to transmit virus to coworkers and customers. Most retail workers spend their day in air-conditioned stores facilitating transmission of a virus spread by the aerosol route.  Although the National Retail Federation cited declining incidence rates of COVID to justify their opposition to vaccination, the disease is far from eradicated, and the U.S. will continue to experience regional spikes in infection.  The higher the proportion of immunized individuals in a given population the lower the probability of a resurgence in cases.


The National Retail Federation is obviously concerned over absenteeism and resignations that will impact an already depleted work force.  This is no justification to oppose a sound and proven method of protecting communities from a disease that has serious implications for the elderly and the immunosuppressed.


If companies such as Tyson Foods can vaccinate 96 percent of their line workers by offering incentives, bonuses and convenience in receiving the vaccine, the National Retail Federation should look within its membership to determine how best to protect its workers.  Surges in COVID will result in even greater absenteeism and were still a stay-at-home response by consumers further impacting retail stores and the national economy. It would be appropriate for the executive for the National Retail Federation to carefully consider their position and adopt a more realistic and longer-term perception of this COVID situation.


This said blanket mandates are unfortunately self-defeating in the politicized atmosphere of 2021. Those who are willing to be protected readily submit to vaccination. Employees who are offended by a mandate, considering it a violation of their rights or who are influenced by anti-vax misstatements and falsehoods, will be even less likely to be vaccinated. All citizens are entitled to their opinions but not necessarily their facts. At the end of the day the Courts will decide whether there is a Constitutional right to disseminate an infection to co-workers and the community. This issue was the subject of Jacobson v. Massachusetts:  197 U.S. 11, a 1905 ruling on the right of states to mandate smallpox vaccination for employees of a school system. The suppression of COVID is a public health issue and not a political contest.