FMI – the Food Industry Association said it has joined a lawsuit challenging the Biden Administration's COVID-19 vaccination/testing mandate for large employers.
The mandate, officially OSHA's emergency temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19 vaccination and testing, calls for companies with 100 or more employees to require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or ensure that unvaccinated employees undergo testing for the disease at least weekly. Under the terms of the ETS, companies must be in compliance by Jan. 4. However, a federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily put the mandate, which the White House has estimated to cover two-thirds of the country's businesses and 100 million workers, on hold.
Retail groups have pushed back against the vaccination and testing requirements, calling them burdensome, unnecessary and unhelpful at a time when retailers already are facing labor shortages, rising costs and supply-chain challenges as they charge into retail's busiest season of the year. FMI said Wednesday it had joined 10 other trade groups, including the National Association of Convenience Stores, the International Foodservices Distributor Association, the National Retail Federation (NRF) and American Trucking Associations Inc. in filing suit in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to block the mandate.
In a statement, FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said that the ETS as currently written "will only exacerbate ongoing labor challenges and worsen an already existing shortage of transport and supply-chain capacity." Forcing grocers and other food retailers to devote critical time and resources to complying with the standard's terms would "[disrupt] our ability to keep the level of food on the shelves necessary to serve our communities as we approach the busy holiday shopping season, which has already been plagued by rising inflation and consumer fears about product availability," Sarasin said.
NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, calling compliance by Jan. 4 "unworkable and virtually impossible," said his organization has consistently and repeatedly communicated concerns about the mandate but that "it appears that our only remaining course of action is to petition for judicial relief."
FMI said hopes to continue to work with OSHA to address issues related to the ETS, including testing availability for workers who do not want to be vaccinated and possible exemptions for low-contact workers, such as truck drivers.