US stores prioritize holiday sales over worker vaccinations

New York.– The holiday shopping season has arrived and US retailers are taking advantage by doing everything from slashing prices to stocking showrooms to attracting customers who stayed at home last year. What the biggest of them aren’t doing is the one thing the White House and many public health experts have asked of them: ordering their workers to be vaccinated.

As other industries with workers in frontline roles, such as airlines and hospitals, have moved toward requiring vaccines, retailers have struggled, citing concerns about a labor shortage. And a portion of one of the nation’s largest workforces will remain unvaccinated, just as shoppers are expected to flock to stores.

At the heart of retailer resistance is a concern to have enough people to work with. In a tight job market, retailers have been offering benefits like higher wages and better hours to prospective employees in hopes of having enough staff for their stores and distribution centers. The National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group, has estimated that retailers will hire up to 665,000 temporary workers this year.

Macy’s, for example, said it planned to hire 76,000 full and part-time employees this season. The retailer has offered referral bonuses of up to $ 500 for each friend or family member employees recruit to join them. This fall, Macy’s asked corporate staff to get vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19 to enter its offices. But store workers are a different story.

“We have a lot of stores that have a lot of openings, and any rules that we have to force those colleagues to get vaccinated before Christmas will only exacerbate our labor shortage and enter a really critical period for us,” said Jeff Gennette, CEO. from Macy’s.

The industry showed how strongly it feels on the issue this month when the Biden administration ordered companies with 100 or more workers to require weekly vaccinations or tests by January 4. Five days after that announcement, the National Retail Federation sued to stop the effort.

“We all agree on the premise that vaccines are good and vaccines save lives,” said Stephanie Martz, NRF Managing Director.

“But in the same way, you can’t just say, ‘Okay, do it like this.’

The order is now in litigation, challenged by a series of lawsuits from a broad coalition of opponents, and could go to the Supreme Court. The administration’s filings warn that blocking the rule “would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day.”

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