The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the largest trade group representing retailers in the United States. It does an outstanding job in Washington advocating for rules, reglations and laws that are advantageous to retailers. It promotes the retail industry and runs the largest trade show for retailers. (Full disclosure: I serve on committees of the NRF.)
Earlier today, the NRF said that the vaccine mandate required for companies with more than 100 employees would “impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday season.” Last month, the NRF expressed concerns about the proposed rule avoiding the “normal review and comment process of rulemaking.” In a statement today, David French, Senior Vice President for government relations at the NRF, issued the following statement. “It is critical that the rule not cause unnecessary disruption to the economy, exacerbate the pre-existing work force shortage or saddle retailers, who are already taking considerable steps to keep their employees and customers safe, with needless additional requirements and regulatory burdens.”
I love the NRF but there’s a problem with their position. Of all the possible ways to end the pandemic and save lives, there is no better, proven way to do it than with a vaccine. Given the lives that can be saved by the Covid vaccine, it’s understandable that the government passed over its normal review and comment proccess for the vaccine mandate. We don’t know whose life will be saved by moving faster but we know that it will be someone; that person could very well be a store employeee and the industry needs to advocate for that person’s life and safety.
What the NRF says about the rule being “burdensome” is true, it is a burden. But having employees get sick and die is a bigger burden. The NRF talks about the challenge of hiring employees, especially in geographies where there is vaccine hesitation. We need to give the store employees more credit. A person who has a choice would rather work for a retailer where they know they’re less likely to catch the virus. For that matter, as a consumer I know I’d rather shop in a store where I know the associates are vaccinated.
The NRF is an important leader in the retail industry and they almost always get it right. The industry needs leadership like the NRF gives. But on the vaccine mandate,, the NRF needs to take more of a leadership position. It needs to address vaccine hesitancy by pointing out that the vaccine works, that lives get saved, that people are better off with it than without it and that includes employees, customers and employers. If everyone in America had the vaccine, we’d all be safer. The NRF can help and we all need it to do its usual outstanding job to lead the retail industry.
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