COVID vaccine mandates gain popularity at businesses, though not yet law

Wednesday, August 4, 2021
COVID vax mandates gain popularity in Chicago restaurants
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To protect both workers and customers, more and more Chicago restaurants are adding COVID vaccine mandates.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- If you want to dine in restaurants and bars in NorthHalsted like DS Tequila and Sidetrack, you better have proof of COVID vaccination, as it's now required to get in.

More and more restaurants and nightclubs around Chicago area making that move as COVID cases once again surge, driven by the spread of the delta variant, especially in unvaccinated populations.

Others, like Ever in Fulton Market, are not quite there yet, even as they once again mask up regardless of vaccination status.

"Safety first, it's almost funny to say it, but every move that we make is a safety first move," said Ever owner Michael Muser.

The move to require masks and ask for vaccination status is supported by CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, even as she insisted the city has no plans yet to follow New York's move to mandate proof of vaccination for all indoor dining and fitness centers.

"I want to thank them for doing that. It is clearly one of the most important things they can do for reducing the risk for everybody in the restaurant," Arwady said.

The city is working on a way for people to digitally prove their vaccination status.

"We have a lot of people who lose their cards," Arwady explained. "We want people where there are settings that are wanting to either mandate vaccines or be checking vaccines as folks are coming in. I want to make that as technologically easy as possible in a way that protects everybody's privacy."

The Illinois Restaurant Association hopes individual restaurants will be allowed to make their own decisions, and pointed out that restaurants operating at high capacity or that are in neighborhoods with lower vaccination rates would be catastrophically affected by a vaccine mandate.

"We're still behind," said Sam Sanchez. "Every time you open the door and you're not operating at 100%, you're losing money."

Businesses see vaccine mandates as way to protect staff

In Des Plaines, the textile plant most famous for making menswear for the Hart, Schaffner and Marx brand, virtually everybody is fully vaccinated. That's because it's company policy.

"The health and safety of employees and their families and also the company all it takes is one employee that gets sick during this pandemic," said president Kenneth Ragland.

The plant is among many large companies across the country mandating that workers get the vaccine as a condition of employment. Among them are Google, Netflix, Walmart, Tyson Foods, Microsoft and Disney, which is the parent company of this station.

"In the last month we've seen a huge uptick," said labor attorney David Moore, Launer & Muchin.

Experts say many companies began by counting on encouraging workers to get vaccinated, in part because it was initially somewhat difficult to arrange. But now with vaccinations widely available, they're changing their tune, partly out of necessity.

"A lot of employers are finding a substantial number of their employees are not receiving the vaccine for various reasons," said Moore.

According to labor attorneys, in order for companies to mandate vaccines among union employees, it has to be negotiated. But many unions support vaccination to promote a healthy workplace and to get their members back to work. The only exceptions are for medical or religious reasons.

"A lot of unions see the vaccine as a way to protect the membership and a way to get back to work," said Angie Hamada, a labor attorney who represents union workers.

The Hart, Schaffner and Marx plant had not intended to require face masks once their employees were all vaccinated, but now with the increases in delta variant cases, and news that it can infect vaccinated individuals, they are once again mandated face masks. So far, no one is complaining.