In September, President Joe Biden ordered all private companies and federal contractors employing more than 100 workers to impose Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine mandates. The controversial order has been heavily opposed by several businesses and lawmakers.
Two heads of transportation associations recently wrote letters to the Biden administration, warning that the mandates could exacerbate the worker shortage plaguing the United States.
In an Oct. 18 letter to Shalanda Young, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, President Stephen Alterman of the Cargo Airline Association (CAA) stated that they have “significant concerns” about whether industry members can implement Biden’s vaccine mandate by the Dec. 8 deadline. The CAA represents large air cargo companies like DHL Express, FedEx, and UPS.
“As a practical matter, we are extremely concerned that it will be virtually impossible to have 100 percent of our respective work force vaccinated by December 8. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that we are already experiencing a worker shortage, both in the air and on the ground, and any loss of employees who refuse to be vaccinated will adversely affect needed operations,” the letter stated.
Alterman asked that the government grant “flexibility” to CAA members regarding the Dec. 8 deadline, and to push back the deadline into the first half of 2022. This would allow association members to meet the demands of the holiday season.
In another letter written to Sharon Block, acting administrator at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, President Chris Spear of American Trucking Associations (ATA) expressed “grave concern” over the impact of Biden’s mandate on trucking firms.
Spear warned that if the government continues to insist on a mandate, the country’s motor carriers could lose up to 37 percent of their drivers to “retirements, attrition to smaller carriers and/or conversion to independent contractor owner-operator.” Motor carriers move 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the U.S.
“While much of the country was sequestered in their homes, the trucking industry served its essential function and did so successfully with safety standards developed by public health experts… Now placing vaccination mandates on employers, which in turn force employees to be vaccinated, will create a workforce crisis for our industry and the communities, families, and businesses we serve,” the letter stated.
According to Jeremy Tancredi, a partner in West Monroe’s Operations Excellence practice specializing in supply chain management, Biden’s mandate could push workers averse to vaccination to look for jobs at firms not subject to the mandates. He stressed that warehouses cannot afford any more labor shortages given that customer demand continues to be high.
“It is almost impossible to find workers… We know we have a lot of clients who are running north of 50% temp labor right now, which is just a crazy high number,” Tancredi said to Supply Chain Dive. Usually, temporary labor only accounts for roughly 20 percent of a company’s total workforce.
In a report published on Oct. 20, the Federal Reserve admitted that vaccine requirements were having a negative effect on the labor market. Technology and transportation companies saw “particularly low labor supply.” Many firms reported high employee turnover, with vaccine mandates cited as “contributing to the problem.”