Illinois companies prepare to comply with Biden's new OSHA-backed vaccine mandate

ROSELLE, Ill. (WLS) -- Large companies across Illinois are now grappling with new federal regulations from the Biden administration that will require mandatory COVID vaccination or testing starting Jan. 4, 2022.

"Hopefully employees will get vaccinated first or cooperate with mandatory testing," said Kyle Winchester, vice president of operations for M&R Printing Equipment.

Business executives have been planning for several months for how to implement the OSHA requirements, which were formally announced Thursday. Now part of the concern is how this will impact the ability of companies to keep employees who might resist the mandates.

READ MORE | Most US employees must get shot or test weekly for COVID by Jan. 4

At M&R in Roselle, the warehouse employs about 300 workers. About 80% are vaccinated. The federal mandate means they now have more to do.

"We will make sure they are aware of the policy well in advance so we'll put more communication out starting next week as to what is going to happen and the dates. And then we will provide locations for where they can go get vaccinated," said Kyle Winchester, VP Operations M&R Printing Equipment.

Machinist Paul Divis got vaccinated in the spring and hopes the mandate won't prompt co-workers to quit.

"I think it should be up to the individual. If they want to go out and are not vaccinated, whatever, but I don't think they should force everybody to do it," Divis said.

The trucking industry is particularly concerned that many truckers may quit when the industry overall is already short an estimated 80,000 drivers.

"And as a nation, we don't need to get that number higher. We need to reduce that number so that we can deliver freight, clear up the port situation that is going on in California and get all the freight that this nation needs as we go into the holiday season," said David Heller, vice president of government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association.

The other challenge for businesses is how the mandate will impact their ability to hire new employees, which is already a struggle.

"This will just be another hurdle that we will have to overcome, and make sure that incoming employees are aware of what the policy is," Winchester said.

But industry analysts said for some companies the mandate provides cover to get people vaccinated.

"I think in some ways, employers are just relieved that we now have the OSHA guidelines on what the mandate is going to look like," said Andy Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

There is already pushback. In Republican-led states like Indiana, the governor is planning to file a lawsuit to challenge the mandate's constitutionality.
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