ND commerce groups: Vaccine mandate could worsen workforce shortage

Local News

A deadline is now in place for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate President Joe Biden announced in September.

Those who work at a company employing more than 100 people will have to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. If not, workers will have to show negative COVID tests weekly and wear a mask on the job.

That’s according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.

The Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC says there are about 3,400 open jobs across Burleigh and Morton Counties. They say the vaccine mandate could make that worse.

“What we are concerned about is will this compound or exacerbate an already difficult labor situation,” Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC President Brian Ritter said.

With now hiring signs almost everywhere, Ritter says the mandate is going to be a challenge for large businesses.

“We have so many different industries that are in that pool — healthcare, manufacturing, food services. That’s part of the difficulty, that diversity and ultimately how the executive order is applied,” Ritter said.

Greater North Dakota Chamber CEO and President Arik Spencer shares those concerns.

“This is a new kind of world, place for employers to be in, and it’s one they typically don’t want to be in,” Spencer said.

Spencer says the organization, which has about 1,000 members statewide, opposes the mandate.

“What we’ve stood for is that an employer should have the right to decide what’s best for their employees, their customers, based on what their stakeholders and their shareholders want,” Spencer said.

He says some businesses may be holding off on implementation, hoping for legal challenges to take effect.

“Employers right now are wading through all of that trying to figure out how to get ready for Jan. 4,” Spencer said.

North Dakota leaders have opposed the mandate, with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem joining a lawsuit against it. The state’s two Senators are supporting legislation in Congress to nullify the president’s order.

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