The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, has written a letter to the Biden administration, requesting that the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) think about exempting businesses in the food supply chain from the COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Mandate, following the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to lift the stay on the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).
In the Dec. 20 letter addressed to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Douglas Parker, assistant secretary, OSHA, NGA laid out its concerns and the challenges confronting the independent supermarket sector amid a serious labor shortage, the holiday rush and evolving consumer behaviors in response to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
“We fear an untenable situation should OSHA restore the vaccine and testing mandate on grocers at this time,” wrote Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based NGA. “Our members are reporting that many employees intend to quit if required to submit to vaccines or weekly tests. Even if employees opt for weekly testing, grocers are reporting they cannot currently procure enough tests to satisfy the number of employees that require testing. Simply put, we expect significant disruptions to the industry’s ability to supply a hungry American public with needed food and consumer goods should the mandate go forward as planned.”
The letter went on to ask the agency to “reconsider an exemption for the essential workforce in the food industry so we can keep hungry Americans fed without disruption.” Absent an exemption, the letter encouraged the Biden administration “to delay the mandate and partner with NGA and the food industry to increase vaccination rates through voluntary efforts.”
NGA has pledged to engage with the administration on industry issues as OSHA considers its next steps.
Earlier this month, in response to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision, Arlington, Va.-based FMI – The Food Industry Association, along with other association partners representing a broad range of retail, wholesale, warehousing, transportation, travel, logistics and commercial interests, filed an emergency application for an immediate stay in the U.S. Supreme Court. In November, the trade organization teamed with 10 other trade groups in a lawsuit challenging the ETS.